A research fellow is Harvard is on a mission to better educate US policymakers on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Watching Facebook Chief Executive, Mark Zuckerberg appears in front of Congress earlier this year, Dipayan Ghosh, a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) realized just how little the policymakers understood the topic they were investigating.
“AI is a tremendous technology, but there are really salient problems that we’ve seen take a life of their own in society,” says Ghosh, who was a technology policy advisor in the Obama administration. “We need to inform people in positions of power about how these systems actually work, so the next time they launch a regulatory effort, they won’t be ill-informed.”
Ethical Machine dives deep into consequences of AI
Ghosh will co-lead a new AI policy initiative called the Ethical Machine with a fellow senior researcher at HKS, Tom Wheeler. The initiative aims ‘to bring some of the most impactful ideas around the development of ethical algorithms to policymakers and the public.’
In recent years the consequences of poorly planned and programmed AI has been experienced in various incidents ranging from sexist hiring bots to racialized housing algorithms. Ghosh argues these examples, while they have potentially devastating consequences should serve as an opportunity to ‘invite an open, vibrant, and vital set of discussions about what is right—or put differently, what the moral nature of any algorithm should entail. Only by engaging in this crucial conversation can we determine the contours for “ethical” AI.”
Interdisciplinary experts weigh in on technology ethics
As part of the initiative, Ghosh and Wheeler will ask leading experts in a variety of disciplines to offer opinion, theory, and perspective on key issues related to AI including discrimination, fairness, transparency, and accountability. These insights will be published in the coming months for everyone to access.
First up, the site will offer a platform to Catherine Tucker, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, on the economic context of algorithmic bias; M.C. Elish and Danah Boyd, research lead and founder of the Data & Society Research Institute, respectively, on the ethics of when and how to use AI systems without exacerbating existing injustice; and Joseph Turow, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, on the discriminatory consequences of hyper-personalized marketing.
Congress goes back to school with AI Bootcamp
Members of Congress and their technical staff have been invited to attend a boot camp in Washington, DC, next February to help translate the articles into productive policy discussions. The camp will offer its participants an opportunity to explore what ethical AI means and can look like as well as ways regulation can help ensure AI is used in a way that promotes fairness.