Calvin D. Lawrence, A Software Developer & Data Scientist

Calvin D. Lawrence was appointed distinguished engineer at IBM in 2010. A distinguished engineer is the second highest technical achievement at IBM and is appointed by the IBM CEO. He is a sought-after and award-winning speaker and author. Calvin has over 20 industry-related patents and has authored over fifty articles, white papers, and books on technology-related subjects. He is frequently asked to serve on technology panels related to AI trust and research, cloud, quantum, and other emerging technologies.  He is a member of IBM’s Global AI Ethics board and IBM’s Academy of Technology.

Calvin spent his early childhood years, growing up in poor and crime-ridden neighborhoods. The contrast between having an antagonistic relationship with law enforcement and experiencing the benefits of government aid formed his mentality and influences his current dedication to using technology for good. Calvin’s career is characterized by working with clients to develop creative yet disciplined approaches to solving technical and business problems through the application of emerging and innovative technology.

With over 25 years of experience across enterprise architecture, engineering, application/system programming, and research, Calvin D. Lawrence has led product development, innovation, and research teams across IBM’s vast product portfolio. Over the last five years, he has helped to lead and drive IBM’s cloud, data, AI, and quantum computing transformation. As an artificial intelligence specialist working at IBM, Calvin is keenly aware of the Black experience in the tech space, and how technology can be misused. For instance, “If an automated voice bot called my mother up on the phone, using technology you could easily determine that she’s a Black woman over the age of 70 and lives in a certain zip code. Based on this data, the bot might be programmed to limit, confine, and refuse her, or to force her to overpay for products and services.” Calvin says.

Artificial Intelligence Impact Awareness

As a Black engineer, Calvin has always been keen about the ground reality of artificial intelligence and how drastically it affects the people of color. Acquiring a complete understanding of how technology works, Calvin believes that the Black technology experience comes with a special duty, which he willingly embraces. He gets to deal with a lot of developing technology, a lot of research stuff, and use it in other geographies. He values this effort because it fits with his aim to utilize his IBM position as an engine for change. His objective is to attempt to drive change because he understands the community more than the other individuals who do not belong to his field.

When comparing his current situation to his earlier challenges, Calvin reminisces telling his younger self that despite his circumstances, his aspirations are not out of reach. And he is thankful that his children are not subjected to the same constraints that he had to experience. Unlike other kids of his age, Calvin didn’t have a dream as a young boy. It was never his intention to become a prominent engineer or to even work in tech. As Calvin states, “My 25 year old daughter has wanted to be a veterinarian since she was five. She’s currently applying to veterinary school. But it wasn’t my reality. So, if I had to say something to the younger Calvin, it would be, ‘dream’. Because you have the ability to realize your ambitions.”

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Michelangelo

Based on the darker side of the unintended consequences of the ever-advancing technology AI, Calvin D. Lawrence has penned a book “Hidden in White Sight: How AI Empowers and Deepens Systemic Racism” that orbits around the fact of how AI creates differences in people when following a set of instructions incorporated through a prejudiced mindset.

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