“Empowering Women in AI: Meet Krystal Kauffman, Research Fellow at the Distributed AI Research Institute”

We’ll publish several pieces throughout the year as the AI boom continues, highlighting key work that often goes unrecognized. Krystal Kauffman worked as an organizer on political and issue campaigns for a decade before pursuing a degree in geology. For the next two years, I was able to support myself doing data work in which I completed tasks that helped program AI, build LLMs and so on. What are some issues AI users should be aware of? Similarly, the creation of AI legislation has to involve data workers.

In an effort to give recognition to the often overlooked contributions of women in the AI field, TechCrunch is dedicating a series of interviews to showcasing remarkable women who have made an impact in the AI revolution. Throughout the year, as the AI industry continues to thrive, we will highlight the key work of these exceptional individuals.

Krystal Kauffman spent a decade working in political and issue campaigns before deciding to pursue a degree in geology. After a brief stint in gig work, she found herself at Turkopticon, a non-profit organization fighting for the rights of gig workers, particularly those using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (AMT) platform. Kauffman now serves as the lead organizer at Turkopticon and is also a research fellow at the Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR), working towards a fairer future for workers in the ever-growing gig economy.

“A community of workers united in righting the wrongs of the big-tech marketplace platforms.”


How did you get your start in AI and what drew you to the field?

Kauffman: In 2015, I became ill and was unable to work outside of my home. During this time, I discovered the AMT platform and started doing data work, which involved tasks such as programming AI and building LLMs. Through this experience, I became passionate about solving issues with the platform and advocating for the ethical treatment of workers in data work.

What work are you most proud of in the AI field?

Kauffman: When I first started working in data nine years ago, very few people were aware of the global workforce behind programming smart devices and developing AI from their homes. Through various platforms, including interviews, conference panels, articles, and social media, I have been able to raise awareness about this workforce and its ethical challenges. It’s an honor to be able to educate the public, lawmakers, and labor advocates about this important issue.

How do you navigate the challenges of being a woman in the male-dominated tech and AI industries?

Kauffman: I am fortunate to have a strong support system of colleagues and mentors who want to see women and non-binary individuals succeed. I make a point to surround myself with like-minded individuals and seek advice from both women and supportive men. However, it’s important to continue speaking up about inequality and working towards change.

What advice do you have for women interested in entering the AI field?

Kauffman: My advice would be to just go for it! Find a good mentor or mentors and seek guidance from strong, successful women and non-binary individuals in the field. Forge relationships with supportive men, and don’t be afraid to speak up and share your ideas.

What do you believe are the biggest issues facing the evolution of AI?

Kauffman: One of the biggest challenges is accessibility – who has access to the tools, who is providing and maintaining the data, and who is benefiting from AI? We also need to address the treatment of workers in the industry, as well as the issue of bias in AI systems.

What should AI users be aware of?

Kauffman: Always pay attention to how the workers behind AI are being treated – it can reveal a lot about the system and its ethical implications.

What is the most responsible way to build AI?

Kauffman: It’s crucial to involve underrepresented populations in the creation of AI. The individuals who will be most impacted by this technology should always have a say in its development. Similarly, creating AI legislation should also involve data workers – they are the backbone of these systems, and their input is necessary for responsible decision-making.

How can investors promote responsible AI?

Kauffman: My message to investors is to remember that nothing is set in stone. We have the power to push for change and improvements in the industry. Look for other organizations advocating for responsible AI, challenge unfair working conditions, and question any unethical practices in the implementation and usage of AI. Only through speaking up and taking action can we drive progress and accountability in the AI field.

Read more profiles here.

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Max Chen

Max Chen is an AI expert and journalist with a focus on the ethical and societal implications of emerging technologies. He has a background in computer science and is known for his clear and concise writing on complex technical topics. He has also written extensively on the potential risks and benefits of AI, and is a frequent speaker on the subject at industry conferences and events.

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