AI & Society



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 broadly, 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.

The AI & Society Program is the fourth pillar of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, a $125 million investment from the Government of Canada with the goal of supporting Canada’s leadership in machine learning research and training.

Launched in 2017, the AI & Society Program consists of two streams of programming:

AI & Society Workshops

AI Futures Policy Labs

CIFAR, in partnership with Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship, engaged more than 125 policymakers in five different Canadian cities with the aim of helping emerging policy leaders in Canada's public, private, academic and not-for-profit sectors prepare for the opportunities and challenges that accompany the rapid development of AI. The workshops have now concluded. Read more.

AI & Society Workshops

CIFAR issued two International Calls for Proposals in 2018. This program provides funding and support to bring together new international teams 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.

First Call for Proposals for AI & Society Workshops

The First International Call was completed in October 2018. Results from this Call for Workshops can be found here. The four successful proposals are underway with workshops beginning in March 2019. Each workshop will bring together a diverse group of 20-25 international experts to explore the economic, legal, ethical and social perspectives on AI. CIFAR is proud to support each of the eligible applicants with $50,000-$80,000 in funding to support a global, interdisciplinary and inclusive conversation on these issues. More information about these workshops can be found here.

The four successful applications include the following topics:

  •  Indigenous protocol and AI
    Two workshops in March and May 2019
    Proposal Team: Jason Edward Lewis, Concordia University, Canada; Angie Abdilla, Old Ways, New
    Indigenous Knowledge Consulting, Australia; ʻŌiwi Parker Jones, Oxford University, United Kingdom; Fox Harrell, MIT, United States
  •  Generation AI: Reducing inequality and enhancing digital inclusion via smart design and developmental science
    Two workshops beginning in May 2019
    Proposal Team: Candice Odgers, University of California Irvine, United States; Anna Goldenberg, University of Toronto, Canada; Ronald Dahl, University of California Berkeley, United States; Mizuko Ito, University of California Irvine, United States
  •  AI powered ecosystems and democracy
    One workshop in June 2019
    Proposal Team: Derek A. S. Ruths, McGill University, Canada; Seda Guerses, University of Leuven, Belgium; Alexandra Olteanu, Microsoft Research, United States; Joris Hoboken, Vrije Universiteit Brussels and University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  •  Regulation of defense and security AI technologies: Options beyond traditional arms control
    Two workshops beginning in July 2019
    Proposal Team: Kerstin Vignard, UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), Switzerland; David Danks, Carnegie Mellon University, United States; Amb (ret.) Paul Meyer, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Second Call for Proposals for AI & Society Workshops

In August 2018, CIFAR, in partnership with France's Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), launched a second International Call for Workshops targeted at priority areas related to AI & Society (read the announcement). Applications for this Call for Workshops are now closed and all applicants have been informed of the results. CIFAR, CNRS and UKRI will announce the successful proposals from this competition very shortly. The priority areas identified in the Call are:

  •  AI, Recommendations, and the Curation of Culture
  • AI and Future Arctic Conflicts
  • Trust in AI Systems
  • Ethical Futures
  • AI & Health Care
  • Sustainability in the Digital Age
  • Social Dynamics & Culture of AI
  • Fairness, Interpretability and Privacy for Algorithmic Systems

More details on these 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.

The first round of AI Futures Policy Labs have concluded. Five AI Futures Policy Labs have taken place:

  • Montreal, February 5, 2019 hosted by Element AI
  • Ottawa, November 22, 2018
  • Vancouver, October 22, 2018 hosted by Microsoft Canada
  • Edmonton, September 20, 2018 hosted by ATB Financial
  • Toronto, June 25, 2018

Read more about the AI Futures Policy Labs

For more information, please contact Amy Cook.