For the second year in a row, Canada has refused visas to dozens of researchers - most of them from Africa - who were hoping to attend an artificial intelligence (AI) conference in Vancouver. The hassles have caused at least one other AI conference to choose a different country for their next event. The Neural Information Processing Systems conference (NeurIPS), which brings together thousands of experts and researchers from all over the world, will be held in Vancouver next month. Last week, NeurIPS began hearing that several attendees had had their visas denied. It was the second year in a row the conference has had visa troubles.
Canadian immigration officials deny travel visas to a large number of AI researchers and research students scheduled to attend the NeurIPS and Black in AI workshop, event organizers said. Among the people who have been denied entry is Tẹjúmádé Àfọ njá, co-organizer of the NeurIPS Machine Learning workshop for the developing world. NeurIP Information Processing Systems (NeurIPs) is the world's largest annual international AI conference, according to the AI Index 2018 report. The conference is scheduled to be held from December 8 to 14 in Vancouver, Canada. On Tuesday, Black in AI co-founder and Google AI researcher Timnit Gebru said that 15 of the 44 attendees who planned to join the workshop on December 9 were denied entry.
At the G7 meeting in Montreal last year, Justin Trudeau told WIRED he would look into why more than 100 African artificial intelligence researchers had been barred from visiting that city to attend their field's most important annual event, the Neural Information Processing Systems conference, or NeurIPS. Now the same thing has happened again. More than a dozen AI researchers from African countries have been refused visas to attend this year's NeurIPS, to be held next month in Vancouver. This means an event that shapes the course of a technology with huge economic and social importance will have little input from a major portion of the world. The conference brings together thousands of researchers from top academic institutions and companies, for hundreds of talks, workshops, and side meetings at which new ideas and theories are hashed out.
On Thursday in Montreal, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau boasted about his country's leading position in artificial intelligence and openness to international collaboration. A few miles away, the world's largest AI conference proceeded without scores of researchers denied visas by Trudeau's government. All week, Montreal has played host to 8,000 people attending the NeurIPS conference, which ends Saturday. But well over 100 researchers with tickets to attend the event or its associated workshops, including many who planned to present work, are absent due to visa denials or delays. AI researchers say the visa problems undermine efforts to make their field more inclusive, and less likely to produce technology that discriminates or disadvantages people who aren't white or Western.
London (CNN Business)Some of the leading artificial intelligence experts from Africa and South America have been denied visas to attend a major industry conference in Canada, dealing a setback to efforts to prevent bias from taking root in the new technology. Conference organizers say Canadian immigration authorities have denied visas to two dozen academics from countries such as Nigeria and Brazil, preventing them from attending the event next month in Vancouver. Katherine Heller, a professor who serves as co-chair of diversity and inclusion at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference, said organizers "are trying extremely hard" to have the visa denials overturned. "It is very significant for the field of AI that all voices be heard," she said. The problem of algorithmic bias in data science has become more pronounced, and there's mounting evidence that AI-powered algorithms display bias against women and some racial groups.