A tool to overcome technical barriers for bias assessment in human language technologies

Automatic processing of language is becoming pervasive in our lives, often taking central roles in our decision making, like choosing the wording for our messages and mails, translating our readings, or even having full conversations with us. Word embeddings are a key component of modern natural language processing systems. They provide a representation of words that has boosted the performance of many applications, working as a semblance of meaning.

Word embeddings seem to capture a semblance of the meaning of words from raw text, but, at the same time, they also distill stereotypes and societal biases which are subsequently relayed to the final applications. Such biases can be discriminatory. It is very important to detect and mitigate those biases, to prevent discriminatory behaviors of automated processes, which can be much more harmful than in the case of humans because their of their scale.

There are currently many tools and techniques to detect and mitigate biases in word embeddings, but they present many barriers for the engagement of people without technical skills. As it happens, most of the experts in bias, either social scientists or people with deep knowledge of the context where bias is harmful, do not have such skills, and they cannot engage in the processes of bias detection because of the technical barriers.

We have studied the barriers in existing tools and have explored their possibilities and limitations with different kinds of users. With this exploration, we propose to develop a tool that is specially aimed to lower the technical barriers and provide the exploration power to address the requirements of experts, scientists and people in general who are willing to audit these technologies.