RailsConf always boasts an exciting variety of talks that highlight the creativity and interdisciplinary nature of the Ruby community. As a tech sector newcomer, I thought it would be fun to curate a series highlighting speakers whose stories about their experiences in tech captured my curiosity. Read on for today’s speaker spotlight…

Title of Talk:

Artificial Intelligence & Race: Does AI have issues with racial bias?


Crux Conception, M. Psych

How Did you get into Ruby?

Although I may not be a Ruby expert myself, my experience in developing teams and facilitating communication has given me insight into the value of the Ruby programming language. As someone specializing in soft skills, I understand how important it is for a team to communicate effectively. Ruby's syntax has proven to be more easily readable and understood than other languages. Furthermore, my background in psychology has taught me the importance of team building and cohesiveness in any project. The Ruby users and developers community is often praised for its friendly and inclusive culture, which can significantly benefit the success of collaborative projects. Using Ruby in web development has numerous advantages even outside the programming community. Its simplicity and flexibility allow for quicker development and updates, and it has been widely adopted for its scalability and efficiency. So while I may not be a technical expert in Ruby, my soft skills expertise has given me an understanding and appreciation for its value in building successful teams and projects.

What’s your favorite part about working on Open Source Software?

One of the significant advantages of working on open-source software is the ability to learn from experienced developers and contribute to projects that benefit the software ecosystem. Open-source software projects offer great opportunities for developers to improve their coding skills, build their resumes, and gain recognition for their work. Contributing to open-source software demonstrates experience collaborating with other developers to solve problems and deliver quality software. Contributing to open-source software is an excellent way for developers to learn, grow, and positively impact society while showcasing their coding expertise and building a robust portfolio.

What’s your least favorite part about working on OSS?

This is from a beginner's perspective; therefore, I only have a few favorite parts about working on OSS because I'm new to the game and still trying to figure everything out. It's all exciting and new to me. As I gain more experience with OSS, it can sometimes be frustrating. One of the biggest challenges is dealing with issues and bugs reported on the project. Trying to sort through all the feedback and prioritize what needs to be fixed first can be overwhelming. Additionally, working on OSS is often a volunteer activity, so balancing OSS contributions with other commitments can be a struggle. It requires a lot of dedication and time management skills to make meaningful contributions to a project while juggling other responsibilities.

What inspired you to give this talk?

As a now-retired Homicide Detective, I arrested the wrong individual based on Artificial Intelligence (Facial Recognition). The individual spent four years in prison, and later, his conviction was overturned. I began to conduct research and submitted questionnaires and interviews throughout the technology community. My findings lead me to this presentation. The presence of AI is permeating our daily lives at an unprecedented rate. From having our speed and traffic violations recorded at every stoplight via a computer-generated AI with facial recognition software to systems that immediately analyze a criminal’s fingerprints, it impacts us in many ways we do not even notice. Artificial Intelligence is on our streets, in our grocery stores, and even in our homes. As a person of color, the inspiration for giving a talk on Artificial Intelligence and Racial Bias in law enforcement comes from personal experiences and the collective experiences of many others like me. We've witnessed an alarming trend of racial profiling and discrimination in law enforcement, which is even more problematic with the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence technologies. AI algorithms used in law enforcement have demonstrated significant racial biases. Facial recognition software, notably, is less accurate when identifying people of color, leading to wrongful arrests and accusations. Given the sheer scale of these issues, it is not surprising that people of color are deeply concerned about the potential for AI to exacerbate racial discrimination in law enforcement. As AI continues to be integrated into criminal justice systems, there is a significant risk that existing biases and stereotypes will be further entrenched in policy and practice. By bringing attention to the problem of AI and racial bias, it is hoped that informed policy and robust ethical standards can be developed to ensure that technology works to eliminate racial disparity rather than perpetuate them.

What do you want people to take away from it?

Facial recognition technology, while offering benefits like fast identification and improved security, is prone to biases, particularly ethnic partiality, due to inaccurate data and preconceptions. To address this, more developer training is needed to reduce biases in algorithms. Future development should emphasize inclusivity, ensuring fairness for all individuals. Developers must also understand the differences between public and real-life data, adapt their models to eliminate preconceptions, and utilize distinctive intelligence to improve the technology's accuracy, fairness, and inclusivity.

What are you most looking forward to at this conference?

I am most looking forward to the diverse range of topics and levels of expertise that the speakers and attendees will cover. There will be opportunities to learn from experts in the field and gain a deeper understanding of building and managing Rails applications. In addition to the educational opportunities, I am also excited to network with developers and discover new tools, resources, and partnerships in the industry. Overall, I believe that RailsConf offers an incredible opportunity to enhance my understanding and proficiency in Rails development and connect with a passionate and knowledgeable community of developers from around the world.

Do you have any other fun plans in Atlanta during the in-person conference week?

I am excited about the upcoming in-person conference in "A". One of the things that I am looking forward to is flying my drone and capturing the views of Georgia's breathtaking scenery. In addition to this, I am an avid poet and make it my point to attend local poetry slams wherever I travel. The open-mic format is an excellent way to showcase one's creative talents and share unique perspectives on life. I will check in to see if any poetry slams are during the week and plan on attending at least one. And if there is time, I have a raincheck to swim with the whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium. During my last trip to Atlanta, I had made plans to give my keynote speech underwater. However, my scuba diver certificate expired.

Thank you, Crux, for sharing a bit of your story. See you at RailsConf 2023!