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Berkeley Talks: Timnit Gebru on how change happens through collective action

"Remember that when you’re on the right side, everything is going to try to tell you that you’re not, that you’re wrong," Gebru, a researcher of ethics in AI, told School of Information graduates on May 16 in a keynote address

a person wearing a cap and gown speaks at a podium
Timnit Gebru, founder and executive director of the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute (DAIR) and one of the most prominent researchers working in the field of ethics in artificial intelligence, gave the keynote address to the School of Information graduating class on May 16.(Photo by Noah Berger)

Read the transcript.

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a person wearing a cap and gown speaks at a podium

Timnit Gebru, founder and executive director of the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute and one of the most prominent researchers working in the field of ethics in artificial intelligence, gave the keynote address to the UC Berkeley School of Information’s graduating class on May 16. (Photo by Noah Berger)

In a special episode of Berkeley Talks, Timnit Gebru, founder and executive director of the Distributed Artificial Intelligence Research Institute and one of the most prominent researchers working in the field of ethics in artificial intelligence, delivers the keynote address to the UC Berkeley School of Information’s graduating class on May 16.

In the speech, Gebru touches on collective action, interconnectedness and the loneliness that may accompany standing on “the right side of history.”

“You are in a place that has outsized influence in the world,” said Gebru. “Stopping harm where you are can have consequences that reverberate in so many places. Work that you do locally, that you may not think is so important, can have huge consequences.”

“Remember that when you’re on the right side,” Gebru continued, “everything is going to try to tell you that you’re not, that you’re wrong. The weight of the whole system is going try to make you silent. So, thinking about all the horrors we’re facing in the world, like some of the things I described here, might fill you with a lot of despair, but remember that there’s always space for joy.”

The goal, she says, isn’t to burn out or sacrifice ourselves, but to work collectively for a better future for all of us.

Watch a video of Gebru’s keynote address on the School of Information’s website.


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