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CANCELED: Dr. Joy Buolamwini, Unmasking AI

Monday, November 13, 2023 - 7:00pm

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Unfortunately, Dr. Joy Buolamwini and her team have canceled her upcoming appearance on November 13, 2023. Ticketholders have been contacted via Eventbrite with more information. If you did not receive this email, or have questions, you may contact us at Thank you for your continued support—we hope to see you at a future event! 

TICKETED OFFSITE EVENT: Bookshop Santa Cruz and The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz present Dr. Joy Buolamwini, "The conscience of the AI revolution" (Fortune), who will discuss her new book, Unmasking AI: My Mission to Protect What Is Human in a World of Machines

Buolamwini, who will be in conversation with Elaine Johnson, explains how we've arrived at an era of AI harms and oppression, and what we can do to avoid its pitfalls. 

This event will take place at the Cowell Ranch Hay Barn and is cosponsored by NAACP Santa Cruz County Branch.

"If you're going to read only one book about AI, this should be it."—Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation

"This revelatory book exposes the myriad, deeply ingrained biases encoded into facial recognition and other 'trusted' AI systems, pushing us to confront our blind trust in the machines that are taking over our lives. In describing how she conquered her own demons along her path towards justice for all, Dr. Joy Buolamwini's offers a deeply felt, stirring call to action for ethical AI—a must-read for those who want a world in which technology serves humanity." —Maria Ressa, Nobel Peace Prize winner, CEO and president of Rappler

Tickets start as low as $10!!

To most of us, it seems like recent developments in artificial intelligence emerged out of nowhere to pose unprecedented threats to humankind. But to Dr. Joy Buolamwini, who has been at the forefront of AI research, this moment has been a long time in the making.

After tinkering with robotics as a high school student in Memphis and then developing mobile apps in Zambia as a Fulbright fellow, Dr. Buolamwini followed her lifelong passion for computer science, engineering, and art to MIT in 2015. As a graduate student at the "Future Factory," she did groundbreaking research that exposed widespread racial and gender bias in AI services from tech giants across the world.

Unmasking AI goes beyond the headlines about existential risks produced by Big Tech. It is the remarkable story of how Dr. 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."

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.

Elaine Johnson is the Executive Director of Housing Santa Cruz County, a nonprofit organization that advocates for affordable housing. She is passionate about creating positive change in her community, wanting the playing field to be leveled for everyone to have a seat at the table, and for there to be no limits regardless of race or background. When asked what she does, Elaine says, "I am working to bring justice and equity to the housing system for the people of Santa Cruz County." Elaine currently serves on several local boards, including Monarch Services, Encompass Community Services, and Community Action Board. Elaine is the President of the NAACP Santa Cruz County Branch and serves on the Juvenile Justice Delinquent Prevention Commission. Elaine enjoys watching football (NY Giants), singing, and spending time with her wife, Shinehah. They live in Live Oak.