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The hierarchy of knowledge in machine learning & related fields and its consequences

Wednesday, January 6, 2021
4:00pm to 5:45pm
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Dr. Timnit Gebru, Senior Research Scientist, Artificial Intelligence, Google,

Feminist and race & gender scholars have long critiqued "the view from nowhere" that assumes science is "objective" and studied from no particular standpoint. In this talk, I discuss how this view has resulted in a hierarchy of knowledge in machine learning and related fields, devaluing some types of work and knowledge (e.g. those related to data production, annotation and collection practices) and mostly amplifying specific types of contributions. This hierarchy also results in valuing contributions from some disciplines (e.g. Physics) more than others (e.g. race and gender studies). With examples from my own life, education and current work, I discuss how this knowledge hierarchy limits the field and potential ways forward.

* The Diverse Minds seminar series is a campus-wide program that aims to provide a platform for distinguished speakers from a diversity of backgrounds to share their science and personal journey into science with the Caltech Community. These seminars aim to educate, inspire, and initiate purposeful discussion. Caltech recognizes that diverse perspectives and experiences benefit everyone and by intentionally inviting speakers from underrepresented and underserved backgrounds Caltech can continue to cultivate a community that values equity, inclusion, and embraces the power of diversity in STEM.

Due to the pandemic this workshop will be available via Zoom Webinar. The workshop will be open to the Caltech community. URL and registration forthcoming.

For more information, please contact Jamie Meighen-Sei by email at