Artificial intelligence (AI) promises to usher in fundamental change in our society, affecting everything from business to government; working life to personal time. As increasingly sophisticated AI systems are created and deployed more widely, the effects on society are unclear. CIFAR’s AI & Society program aims to examine the questions AI will pose for society involving diverse topics, including the economy, ethics, policymaking, philosophy and the law.
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Improved performance of AI systems – driven by research breakthroughs, increased data availability, improved computing power and new architectures – are leading to applications that outperform human beings in certain domains. Computer vision, natural language processing, and data-driven prediction are notable areas of rapidly increasing AI capability. The increase in both the range and accuracy of the tasks AI systems can perform has led to both excitement and concern.
Effects on labour markets and employment are popular areas of public concern and debate, but the potential societal effects of AI extend more broadly. Questions have been raised about fundamental and complex topics such as algorithmic bias, transparency, governance, and inclusion. AI has the potential to drive changes in policy and practice across many domains, from natural resources to healthcare to the arts. It also raises new questions for ethical and legal practices of all orders of government, business, and civil society.
To help advance discussions around these and other issues, CIFAR will build inclusive, international collaborations and engagements that bring together research perspectives from any discipline, including those in the social sciences, humanities, law, engineering, and the arts with policymakers and innovators. By thinking about these effects early on, engaging diverse perspectives, and communicating new knowledge and insights responsibly and broadly, we will be better able to respond to the new challenges AI presents and take full advantage of the opportunities for human advancement and understanding.
Call for proposals
CIFAR, in partnership with UK Research and Innovation and France’s Centre national de la recherche scientifique, has launched a Call for Workshops targeted at priority areas related to AI & Society. This program will provide funding and support to bring together new teams including members from Canada, France, and the UK, to explore emerging questions about how AI affects the world today and tomorrow. Each workshop will lead to a publication that helps to inform policymakers, NGOs, innovators, and others.
Applications for this Call for Workshops are now closed, and results from this competition will be available in 2019. Results from CIFAR’s previous Call for Workshops can be found here.
AI Futures Policy Labs
In partnership with the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E), CIFAR has launched the AI Futures Policy Labs series, a Canada-wide series of workshops aimed at engaging future policy leaders in deep conversations about the future of AI. Bringing together small groups of early-career professionals from the public, private, non-profit, and academic sectors, these workshops will engage participants in capacity-building and thought-provoking foresight activities in a collaborative, intimate space.
The purpose of these workshops is to promote informed and thoughtful discussions across Canada about the future of AI technology, its impact on society, and potential public policy actions that can be taken to mitigate risks and maximize benefits.
Read more about the AI Futures Policy Labs
Upcoming Workshops & Events
AI Futures Policy Lab
November 22nd, 2018 | Ottawa
AI Futures Policy Lab
TBD | Montreal
For more information on participation in upcoming Labs, please contact Gaga Boskovic.
CIFAR’s AI & Society programming is guided by an Advisory Council of respected researchers from a wide variety of disciplines that blend technical expertise with a deep commitment to promoting human well-being.
Prof. Ian Kerr (Chair)
Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law & Tech.; Full Professor, University of Ottawa
Dr. Joanna Bryson
Reader, Department of Computer Science, University of Bath
Dr. Mario Mariniello
Digital Adviser to the European Political Strategy Centre, European Commission
Prof. Doina Precup
CCAI Chair; CIFAR Senior Fellow; Mila faculty member; Assoc. Professor of Computer Science, McGill University; Research Team Lead, DeepMind Montreal
Ms. Meredith Whittaker
Co-Director, AI Now Institute, New York University
Past Workshops & Events
AI Futures Policy Lab
October 18th, 2018 | Vancouver
On October 18th, 2018, CIFAR and the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) held the third workshop in the AI Futures Policy Lab series in Vancouver, BC. This event was hosted by Microsoft Vancouver, with presentations by CIFAR Senior Fellow Mark Schmidt (University of British Columbia) and intellectual property lawyer Maya Medeiros (Norton Rose Fulbright).
AI Futures Policy Lab
September 20th, 2018 | Edmonton
On September 20th, 2018, CIFAR and the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) held the second workshop in the AI Futures Policy Lab series in Edmonton, AB. Hosted by ATB and CKUA Radio, with presentations by AI expert Cam Linke (AMII) and Professor Kim Tallbear (University of Alberta), the workshop engaged policy makers and social innovators in deep, focused conversations about the public policy implications of AI technology. For more information, read the report here.
AI Futures Policy Lab
June 25th, 2018 | Toronto
On June 25th, 2018, CIFAR and the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) launched the AI Futures Policy Lab series in Toronto. This lab was designed to facilitate capacity building for emerging policy leaders, both within and outside of the civil service, by encouraging critical thinking surrounding a number of possible future AI scenarios based in 2028. The workshop incorporated foresight exercises with brainstorming activities to develop contemporary AI policy approaches in a variety of domains. For more information, read the report here.
Workshop: What’s at Stake in the Fourth Industrial Revolution
June 16, 2018 | Palo Alto
Many economists and industry leaders think the world is entering a period of profound technological change constituting a Fourth Industrial Revolution. The workshop brought together researchers studying the social dimensions of technology—anthropologists, historians, sociologists, and experts in management studies—to put the Fourth Industrial Revolution in broader sociocultural and historical contexts.
Additional Reports and Resources
Global interest in this topic is growing. The following is a selection of reports and initiatives that might be of interest.
AI Now 2017 Symposium Report
Building on the inaugural 2016 report, the AI Now 2017 Report addresses the most recent scholarly literature in order to raise critical social questions that will shape our present and near future. This report focuses on new developments in four areas: labor and automation, bias and inclusion, rights and liberties, and ethics and governance. We identify emerging challenges in each of these areas and make recommendations to ensure that the benefits of AI will be shared broadly, and that risks can be identified and mitigated.
DeepMind Ethics and Society
DeepMind Ethics & Society is a research unit that aims to explore the key ethical challenges facing the field of AI, through interdisciplinary work that brings together the technical insights of our team at DeepMind and the diverse range of people who will be affected by it.
Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems
Ethically Aligned Design will provide insights and recommendations that provide a key reference for the work of technologists in the related fields of science and technology in the coming years.
The Belfer Center for Science andn International Affairs Artificial Intelligence and National Security
The report proposes three goals for developing future policy on AI and national security: preserving U.S. technological leadership, supporting peaceful and commercial use, and mitigating catastrophic risk. By looking at four prior cases of transformative military technology—nuclear, aerospace, cyber, and biotech—the authors develop lessons learned and recommendations for national security policy toward AI.