The Big Read: Keynote Conversation with the Author

The second annual “Big Read” took place in the Husky Union Building (HUB) South Ballroom on Tuesday, February 20, 2024.

The College of Arts & Sciences and UW Linguistics Professor Dr. Emily M. Bender presented a conversation with Dr. Joy Buolamwini, author of Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What is Human in a World of Machines (Penguin Random House, 2023) and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League.

If you were not able to attend or would like to listen or watch again, we have linked a recording below.

About the Book

Book cover for Unmasking AI by Joy Buolamwini

Unmasking AI goes beyond the headlines about existential risks produced by Big Tech. It is the remarkable story of how Buolamwini uncovered what she calls “the coded gaze”—the evidence of encoded discrimination and exclusion in tech products—and how she galvanized the movement to prevent AI harms by founding the Algorithmic Justice League. Applying an intersectional lens to both the tech industry and the research sector, she shows how racism, sexism, colorism, and ableism can overlap and render broad swaths of humanity “excoded” and therefore vulnerable in a world rapidly adopting AI tools. Computers, she reminds us, are reflections of both the aspirations and the limitations of the people who create them. 

Encouraging experts and non-experts alike to join this fight, Buolamwini writes, “The rising frontier for civil rights will require algorithmic justice. AI should be for the people and by the people, not just the privileged few.”


About the Author

Dr. Joy Buolamwini is the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, a groundbreaking researcher, and a renowned speaker. Her writing has been featured in publications such as Time, The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, and The Atlantic. As the Poet of Code, she creates art to illuminate the impact of artificial intelligence on society and advises world leaders on preventing AI harms. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Rhodes Scholarship, the inaugural Morals & Machines Prize, and the Technological Innovation Award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Her MIT research on facial recognition technologies is featured in the Emmy-nominated documentary Coded Bias. Born in Canada to Ghanaian immigrants, Buolamwini lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Building Community

Transformation in the academy takes time, thought, and collaboration. Building strong relationships across the College is a critical foundation for organizational change. We hope events like our annual Big Read will give students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to make connections, share ideas, and think about how we can improve the academy together. 

Accessibility at the UW

We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals to engage fully.