Editor’s note: This is part of series of stories from WRAL TechWire focusing on the calls to action by African American executives in the Research Triangle technology sector following the death of George Floyd.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Tim Humphrey is IBM’s VP of Chief Data Office. He also serves as senior location executive for IBM Research Triangle Park and the senior state executive for North Carolina.
And Humphrey is bringing the gravitas coming with this jobs to join other African American business leaders, are calling for change in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police.
Humphrey, who said he was stunned by how people reacted to the Floyd tragedy, points out that technology has an important role to play in addressing issues confronting the country.
“We have a lot of tech expertise here, not just my favorites of IBM and Red Hat, but many other established companies and several start-ups. I think we can combine to help bring change,” Hymphrey said in an exclusive Q&A with WRAL TechWire.
“The George Floyd death was different because there was transparency, with cameras everywhere. Technology has helped enable this outrage, and I think technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI), can be part of the solution.”
Here’s what he had to say:
- What is your view on the ground?
This has been a very difficult time, and I’ve been very busy counseling colleagues who want to talk about the extraordinary events of the past few weeks.
An outpouring of support, people asking what they can do, people volunteering what they have done. I consider myself fortunate for the way people have reached out. It’s almost like when you lose a loved one, people show their concern. I’ve also talked with a lot of people, inside and outside IBM, and hosted discussions; some of them were very emotional. I’ve seen tears from colleagues and teammates, and it’s been stunning to me how people are reacting.
I’ve convened a meeting with all of IBM’s black employees in North Carolina, and it was productive – in fact, we ran out of time, and we’ll have follow-up meetings. Additionally, I addressed all IBM employees in North Carolina expressing my thoughts on these heartbreaking events which bring to light the inequality, bias, prejudice, and racism, which people have dealt with for far too long and continue to deal with on a daily basis.
- What can be done on a local level to affect change?
It’s time to pull together, and that’s been our main focus. We need to keep taking actions, and I’m working with IBM’s other state executives to rally them behind important legislation. I’ve also spoken to [Raleigh] Mayor [Mary-Ann] Baldwin, and I wanted to let her know what the local business community was thinking. We want to be part of any local changes, including issues that the Raleigh City Council and Mayor’s office are considering addressing.
I think the tech community in RTP can help bring change, including transparency in data.
As an engineer, I believe we can create better business practices, and that includes reform where it needs to be considered. We’ve got some good business locally, and we can bring that to bear, especially in the area of law enforcement.
We have a lot of tech expertise here, not just my favorites of IBM and Red Hat, but many other established companies and several start-ups. I think we can combine to help bring change.
The George Floyd death was different because there was transparency, with cameras everywhere. Technology has helped enable this outrage, and I think technology, especially artificial intelligence (AI), can be part of the solution.
But as we know at IBM, we need to have AI models that don’t have bias built in. I’m committed to helping the local community bring responsible AI to Raleigh government, built on the right ethical platforms and based on transparency for the community. It’s what IBM stands for, and what we need to achieve for our community.
Like many other black men, I have stories about run-ins with the police. Luckily, my stories didn’t end in tragedy, but I remember the feeling of anger, unfairness and helplessness. So this pain is real, and people in the black community can be victims – it’s a real situation. I hope we can turn this around. I know we can make a difference in Raleigh and in America, and I’ve spoken to so many people who want to be a part of a better future. We’ve learned some painful lessons, again. Now is the time to act!