Hong Qu was a Non-Resident Fellow at the Digital Civil Society Lab in Partnership with the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (2019-2020, 2020-2021).
Hong Qu serves as a research director and adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School. He was a member of YouTube’s startup team where he designed key features such as video sharing, channels, and skippable ads. Prior to HKS, he was VP of product at Upworthy and CTO at Fusion Media. He has been a visiting Fellow at Neiman Foundation and a member of the Berkman Klein Center and MIT Media Lab’s Assembly program on Ethics and Governance of AI. Hong is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the UC Berkeley School of Information.
When Hong Qu first came to the DCSL, he saw himself as a technologist trying to build tools for other technologists to understand and highlight biases in the systems they create. After meeting with and learning from his fellow Fellows, however, Qu shiftedthe focus of his project to the civil society sector, an area he was new to considering. He realized that developing an engineer’s tool to fix these problems was insufficient; it was too procedural, and lacked the commitment, conviction, and courage displayed by the other Fellows working in the space. “They said things,” Qu recalls, “that provoked me to reconsider my own place in these movements,” and helped him focus on efforts in governance and policies that create and deploy technology.
Qu’s project, AIBlindspot: Tools for Advancing Equity in Artificial Intelligence, evolved along with his insights. Qu saw the opportunity to stress-test AI Blindspot with technologists and civil society leaders. This more indirect approach, Qu hopes, will help civil society demystify AI, to make sense of it so those working in the sector can challenge its authority through a united voice and campaign against its harms. While Qu thinks about how to scale up this project or find it a permanent home, he will continue to work towards his PhD, an ordeal he says is testing his capacity and tenacity, but a dream he will see through to the end.