An event designed to encourage greater participation by black researchers in artificial intelligence has become the latest flashpoint in the debate over diversity at the cutting edge of computer science and whether political correctness has gone too far.
In December, a group called Black in AI plans to host an afternoon workshop to highlight AI research by black computer scientists at the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, one of the top gatherings for scientists working on AI. While the organizers invited people of all races to attend the workshop, they said only black researchers would be allowed to present papers. As news of the event spread on social media, it sparked a backlash from some coders and academics who questioned why an event focusing solely on research by black scientists was necessary. The debate echoes the controversy in August that followed Google employee James Damore’s circulation of a manifesto that, among other points, accused the company of overzealously promoting diversity at the expense of technical ability in hiring and promotions.