Responsible and inclusive tech research
Technology impacts every aspect of our work and lives. It is imperative that technology is built responsibly, with every user in mind. At IBM Research, we’re working to ensure that the technologies we create benefit our clients — and society at large. Our team is focused on making technology proactively accountable, inclusive, and centered around meaningful societal impacts. We consider the socio-historical contexts of technology production and use it to explore new methods for impact assessment. This way, we can better balance business, technical, and societal impacts, as we develop new technologies that help reduce systemic biases and social inequities. We explore innovative and advanced socio-technological solutions that aim to tackle and mitigate potential disparities that advanced technologies may engender and create.
At IBM Research - Brazil, we’re researching inclusive language technologies (ILT). It takes a critical, reflective, and community-centered perspective on the impact of state-of-the-art language technologies (such as PLM, controllable text generation, and foundation models) on society. In positioning real communities at the core of its research pursuits, ILT draws on peoples' lived experiences as the ontological definition of harms, risks, and impacts of technologies. It also draws on the theoretical and practical understanding of the situated nature of language — that appropriated uses of language and meanings are co-determined in the interactions among people as well as between people and machines. A universal definition of toxic terms may prevent the legitimate uses of certain languages by minority groups, thus inhibiting their agency, identity, and empowerment, rendering them invisible, and directly affecting overall equity and social justice. We assert that inclusion is not just a matter of who is (and who is not) 'included' but also what they say, how they say, and the cultural, social, and political meanings (and realities) their languages create.
As a result, ILT aims to transform the ways in which we design and develop language technologies to make them inclusive, less harmful to vulnerable communities, and empowering. It focuses on two complementary research questions: How do you identify gaps or issues in the design, development, and use of language technologies, and how do you develop language technologies that critically address these issues? Our ILT efforts focus on:
- Investigating and developing new methods and tools in support of critical, reflective, and community-centered design of inclusive language technologies
- Advancing state-of-the-art language technologies (like pre-trained large-scale language models) and controllable text generation (CTG) techniques to make them more inclusive, less harmful, and empowering
- Devising new methods and tools to facilitate the adoption of inclusive, reflective development practices by technical teams