This week we examined the field of Machine Learning Fairness, which seeks to imprint AI programs with leftist assumptions and priorities. Following the money behind the leading organizations of ML Fairness leads to some familiar funding sources, including leftist billionaires Pierre Omidyar, George Soros, and Reid Hoffman.
One of the most well-funded efforts to control AI is the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, a joint project of the MIT Media Lab and Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Media & Society.
By 2017, the initiative had raised $26 million from various sources that played a prominent role in pushing the “disinformation” panic, including Pierre Omidyar’s Luminate, the Knight Foundation, and the notoriously leftist tech bro Reid Hoffman, whose sinister election-influencing activities have been well documented.
Both the MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center were heavily involved in the disinformation panic, and have been involved in controversies. Joi Ito, the president of the MIT lab, had to resign in 2019 after it was revealed that the organization accepted donations from Jeffrey Epstein.
The Berkman Klein Center, meanwhile, was for years the pulpit of Dr. Joan Donovan, a partisan Democrat who used the disinformation panic to cast doubt on the Hunter Biden “laptop from hell” story.
The priorities of the Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative are similarly leftist — it aims to bring the values of ESG and wokeness to AI. Its mission statement is to “ensure that technologies of automation and machine learning are researched, developed, and deployed in a way which vindicates social values of fairness, human autonomy, and justice.”
In 2017, the Initiative hosted an “AI and Inclusion” summit with financial support from George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and others. In 2019, it gave out six-figure sum awards to projects aimed at stopping the use of AI to “spread disinformation.” Clearly, the priorities of the MIT Media Lab and the Berkman Klein Center are the same as ever.
Another organization to keep an eye on is the AI Now Institute, which is backed by Lumiate, an Omidyar organization, as well as the Ford and MacArthur foundations.
The AI Now Institute was perhaps the first organization to make ML Fairness its sole focus, and its priorities are predictably woke: making sure AIs don’t get too effective in fields like criminal background checks, and making sure it gets very effective at promoting leftist causes like the Green New Deal.
The co-founder of the AI Now Institute, Meredith Whittaker, worked at Google for several years before moving to the FTC under Biden and then the Signal Foundation.
In 2019, when Google established an external “AI Ethics” council that included Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James, Whittaker led a collective hissy fit by Google employees opposed to the mainstream conservative’s presence on the council. In her comments, Whittaker seemed to indicate that the inclusion of any conservative viewpoints in the oversight of AI or its use in policy would be a problem.
“See systems deployed to aide ICE in targeting immigrants, to aid the Military in drone strikes, or to enhance worker control. Thus, in ensuring we are ‘ethical’ in our pursuit of AI dominance, we need to include and amplify the perspectives of those most at risk,” said Whittaker. Her efforts ultimately led to the AI Ethics council being shut down.
The MacArthur Foundation, an enormously wealthy leftist private foundation with an endowment of approximately $7 billion, is also throwing its money around in the field of ML Fairness.
MacArthur is a major contributor to the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a nonprofit founded in the 1990s that in recent years has focused on fueling the Russiagate and “disinformation” panics. The CDT has also opposed efforts by red states to give users more power to challenge Big Tech censorship decisions in the courts.
The CDT is now spending an increasing amount of time investigating the uses and misuses of AI, with a stated goal of using the technology to “address deep-seated cultural bias that contributes to systemic inequality.” The CDT’s priorities are familiarly woke. “Equity”, the leftist codeword for equality of outcomes, must be at the center of AI programs according to the CDT.
MacArthur is also a major backer of the nonprofit Code for Science & Society (CSS), which backs the Algorithmic Justice League and the Distributed AI Research Institute, both of which also seek to turn AI to leftist causes. MacArthur gave over $1 million to CSS in 2021 and 2022. A quick dig through CSS’s website finds other familiar sources of funding: George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, the Omidyar Network, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Everywhere we look in the field of “Machine Learning Fairness” or “AI ethics,” the picture is the same: leftist billionaires and foundations pouring millions of dollars into efforts to control AI, either to stop “disinformation” or promote leftist “equity” efforts. Those who want to avoid a future governed by woke AI should keep an eye on these initiatives.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.