Why Hacking Discrimination?

The hackathon construct is intended to provide a high impact mechanism for meaningful dialog, learning, networking and solution development.  Our hope is that prototypes will be developed and commercialized to have far reaching, positive impact.

We don't think anyone can 'cure' discrimination. The issues are essentially disorders of human perception and their aggregate effects in societies.  We are looking to identify pieces that we can impact and use technology to:

1.  Bear witness- Document instances of discrimination or direct violence that can be used for legal recourse and for future advocacy

2.  Connect for change- Establish mentor relationships

3.  Generate momentum- Get like-minded people together to work on a common cause in a tangible and interesting way to lead to mobilization, especially of young people.



The idea of having student teams address issues of discrimination and racism started with MIT Black alumni in Washington, DC who, frustrated by violence in the news and challenged by President Reif’s call to action: "What Are We To Do?"  continued social and economic roadblocks to progress for minorities. A brainstorming session resulted in the development of several concepts, two of which were included in this hackathon.  MIT senior leadership has enthusiastically supported this work.  A Hacking Discrimination Fund was set up at MIT to further this work annually.

A successful ideathon was held on February 2, 2017 at Microsoft's New England Research & Development center.  Microsoft had an intersecting mission to address algorithmic discrimination. Members of BAMIT, the Harvard and MIT data science communities, Women in Machine Learning, and the MIT Alumni Association worked jointly with Microsoft to organize the event. The ideathon was also promoted as an optional pre-event for the Women in Data Science Conference.  

We have a unique and timely opportunity to do something truly meaningful!  We’ll focus on the intersection of big data, algorithm bias, discrimination and race, and explore innovative ways to address important issues.  



The Hacking Discrimination Hackathon was held on April 28 and April 29, 2017. The event featured MIT alum Randall Pinkett as keynote speaker. Nearly 100 participants, including undergraduate and graduate students from several schools, faculty researchers, data and social scientists, community members and alums, gathered together for the hackathon.

Hack topics ranged from community policy to reduce violence to diversifying STEM fields through a Playbook (an AI supported learning system), which has been identified by BAMIT DC. Award-winning hacks included

  • Changing negative sentiment about immigrants with a community media platform/app to enable cultural exchange through food and conversation
  • Leveraging technology to improve the Women Infant Children (WIC) food program via an app to support two-way communication and personalized food choices within WIC program prescriptions
  • An app which supports the changing process of collecting community health information from paper to digital, including video for storytelling

See also MIT Tech:    http://news.mit.edu/2017/hackathon-discrimination-racism-bias-0516

Building on the success of this event, Hacking Discrimination has partnered with the Sloan School students' Breaking the Mold to sponsor a joint event - Hack for Inclusion - on March 9 and March 10, 2018, at Microsoft's New England Research and Development Center.

The Hack for Inclusion will bring together some of the best and brightest minds from MIT and the surrounding communities to build solutions that address some of today's biggest problems related to bias, diversity, and inclusion. We’re looking for participation of people from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences- students, alumni, faculty, researchers and community members.  We expect to address 10-15 different challenges across many dimensions of bias in arenas such as the workplace, STEM careers, media and health care.




Leo Anthony Celi, lceli@mit.edu

Lisa Egbuonu-Davis, legbuonudavis@gmail.com (BAMIT)

Marzyeh Ghassemi, MIT, CSAIL, mghassem@csail.mit.edu

Elaine Harris, harris.ej@gmail.com (BAMIT)

Robert Eric Love, robertericlove@gmail.com (BAMIT)

Tristan Naumann, tjn@mit.edu

Trishan Panch,  tpanch@mit.edu

Fahad Punjwani, punjwani@mit.edu


MIT Alumni Association

Moana Bentin, mbentin@mit.edu

Joe McGonegal, jmcg@mit.edu