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Coded Bias
When MIT researcher, poet and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini uncovers racial and gender bias in AI systems sold by big tech companies, she embarks on a journey alongside pioneering women sounding the alarm about the dangers of unchecked artificial intelligence that impacts us all. Through Joy’s transformation from scientist to steadfast advocate and the stories of everyday people experiencing technical harms, Coded Bias sheds light on the threats A.I. poses to civil rights and democracy.
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Coded Bias

Running Time
Feature Film
90 minutes

Coded Bias

Coded Bias captures the fallout of Joy Buolamwini’s startling discovery that most facial recognition software does not accurately see dark-skinned faces or women. Joy is forced to reckon with bias encoded in algorithms, the invisible mathematical equations that are remaking our behavior, our culture, and our democracies.

Automated decision-making has the unprecedented power to disseminate bias at scale. Through the organization she founds, the Algorithmic Justice League, Joy aims to create a movement towards accountability and transparency. Coded Bias follows poet of code Joy Buolamwini journey to push for the first-ever legislation to govern AI in the United States. In Joy’s success, failures, and challenges lies the collective hope for a more humane use of the technologies of the future. But can the best of our humanity challenge the power of big tech yielding bias in artificial intelligence at scale?

Artfully crafting vérité, lyrical visuals, and imaginative graphic novel elements, Coded Bias captures the personals stories of people whose lives have been directly impacted by algorithmic bias. Powerfully conveying the importance of Joy’s work, Coded Bias features personal stories of people directly impacted by unjust algorithms. As humans increasingly outsource autonomy to machines, Coded Bias explores the setbacks in hiring, health care, and criminal justice. Through intimate portraits and groundbreaking thought leaders, the film aims to show the human impacts that are happening under the guise of machine neutrality and optimizing efficiency.

Filmmaker Notes:

As humans increasingly outsource are autonomy to machines, algorithms are already being deployed to decide what information you see, who gets hired, who gets health care, who is subject to undue police scrutiny. Technologies like facial analysis technology involve bolstering mass surveillance and the weaponization of AI. Algorithmic bias like human bias can result in exclusionary experiences and discriminatory practices. Opaque algorithms that have not been vetted for fairness or accuracy pose a threat to civil rights and democracy. In Joy Buolamwini’s transformation from scientist to a tireless advocate to pass legislation, is a hope for a more equitable and humane technological future.

– Shalini Kantayya

Film details
Year(s) screened
  • 2020
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