Why AI wants extra social staff, with Columbia College’s Desmond Patton

Why AI wants extra social staff, with Columbia College’s Desmond Patton

Typically it does appear all the tech business might use somebody to speak to, like an excellent therapist or social employee. Which may sound like an insult, however I imply it largely earnestly: I’m a chaplain who has spent 15 years speaking with college students, college, and different leaders at Harvard (and extra lately MIT as properly), largely nonreligious and skeptical individuals like me, about their struggles to determine what it means to construct a significant profession and a satisfying life, in a world stuffed with insecurity, instability, and divisiveness of each variety.

In associated information, I lately took a year-long paid sabbatical from my work at Harvard and MIT, to spend 2019-20 investigating the ethics of know-how and enterprise (together with by writing this column at TechCrunch). I doubt it should shock you to listen to I’ve encountered a variety of amoral habits in tech, so far.

A much less anticipated and maybe extra profound discovering, nevertheless, has been what the introspective founder Prayag Narula of LeadGenius tweeted at me lately: that behind the hubris and Machiavellianism one can discover in tech firms is a continuing wrestle with anxiousness and an abiding feeling of inadequacy amongst tech leaders.

In tech, similar to at locations like Harvard and MIT, persons are confused. They’re hurting, whether or not or not they even notice it.

So when Harvard’s Berkman Klein Middle for Web and Society lately posted an article whose headline started, “Why AI Wants Social Staff…”… it caught my eye.

The article, it seems, was written by Columbia College Professor Desmond Patton. Patton is a Public Curiosity Technologist and pioneer in using social media and synthetic intelligence within the examine of gun violence. The founding Director of Columbia’s SAFElab and Affiliate Professor of Social Work, Sociology and Knowledge Science at Columbia College.

Desmond Patton. Picture through Desmond Patton / Stern Technique Group

A educated social employee and embellished social work scholar, Patton has additionally change into a giant identify in AI circles in recent times. If Huge Tech ever determined to rent a Chief Social Work Officer, he’d be a sought-after candidate.

It additional seems that Patton’s experience — in on-line violence & its relationship to violent acts in the true world — has been all too “scorching” a subject this previous week, with mass murderers in each El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio having been deeply immersed in on-line worlds of hatred which seemingly helped result in their violent acts.

Luckily, we have now Patton to assist us perceive all of those points. Right here is my dialog with him: on violence and trauma in tech on and offline, and the way social staff might assist; on lethal hip-hop beefs and “Web Banging” (a time period Patton coined); hiring previously gang-involved youth as “area specialists” to enhance AI; how to consider the possible rising phenomenon of white supremacists live-streaming barbaric acts; and on the economics of inclusion throughout tech.

Greg Epstein: How did you find yourself working in each social work and tech?

Desmond Patton: On the coronary heart of my work is an curiosity in root causes of community-based violence, so I’ve all the time recognized as a social employee that does violence-based analysis. [At the University of Chicago] my dissertation centered on how younger African American males navigated violence of their neighborhood on the west facet of town whereas remaining energetic of their faculty atmosphere.

[From that work] I realized extra in regards to the function of social media of their lives. This was round 2011, 2012, and one of many issues that saved coming by way of in interviews with these younger males was how social media was an essential instrument for navigating each secure and unsafe areas, but in addition an atmosphere that allowed them to undertaking a large number of selves. To be a college self, to be a neighborhood self, to be who they actually needed to be, to check out new identities.

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