AI & Society Animated Illustration

AI & Society

The AI & Society program, a key pillar of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, brings together experts from across sectors, including academia, industry, law, ethics, healthcare, and government, to engage in in-depth discussions on some of the most important and timely challenges that AI is posing to society.

These dialogues deliver new ways of thinking about issues and drive positive changes in the development and deployment of successful, beneficial and socially responsible AI technologies.

Two streams of programming:

  • AI & Society Workshops
  • AI Futures Policy Labs

AI & Society Workshops

CIFAR’s AI & Society workshops bring together diverse experts from across disciplines, sectors and borders to address some of the most fundamental challenges posed by AI. Some examples include:

  • The practice of ethical medicine in AI;
  • The use of AI to address the climate crisis; and
  • The role of AI as an amplifier of inequality for vulnerable populations.


The AI & Society workshops generate deeper understanding of how AI is impacting society, from health to security to culture, and identify opportunities for future research and action. Each workshop team produces a publication that supports the dissemination of insights to the broader community. More details about the workshops and their associated publications are available here.

Two calls for proposals for international AI & Society workshops were initiated in 2018:

AI & Society Workshops - Call One (March 2018 - October 2019)
The first international call was completed in October 2018 and resulted in four successful applications. Each of the workshops brought together a diverse group of 20-25 international experts that explored issues including the role of AI as an amplifier of inequality for vulnerable groups such as children, the potential risks AI poses to democratic institutions, and how AI might be informed by the insights and knowledge of Indigenous groups.

AI & Society Workshops - Call Two (June 2019 - May 2020)
In August 2018, CIFAR launched an international call for proposals in partnership with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The partnership funded eight proposal led by experts in Canada, France and the UK on important societal questions arising from AI. These proposals addressed topics such as trust in AI systems, the impact of algorithms and digital recommendation systems on culture, and, fairness, interpretability & privacy for algorithmic systems.

CIFAR logo 2020 RGB

See the full list of workshops.

What’s Next?

In 2020, CIFAR will announce the next phase of programming to support the global community in addressing urgent challenges in the deployment of beneficial and socially responsible AI. For more information, contact:

Rebecca Finlay, Vice-President, Engagement & Public Policy, CIFAR

Amy Cook, Senior Director, Knowledge Mobilization, CIFAR

AI Futures Policy Labs

CIFAR’s AI Futures Policy Labs engage the public policy community in in-depth conversations with experts from other sectors to help them understand, navigate and respond to the policy opportunities and challenges that are coming from the rapid growth of AI across all aspects of society. These labs ensure AI technologies are developed, implemented and governed in ways that are aligned with public interest objectives.

Partnership with Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E)

CIFAR, in partnership with BII+E, held five labs across five Canadian cities which culminated in a final report, Exploring the Future of AI Policy in Canada. Some of the priority areas where key policy recommendations were made included:

  • Addressing the future of work
  • AI anti-trust mechanism
  • Data governance
  • Public education
  • Consultation
  • Encouraging responsible innovation
  • AI regulation and legislation.

Summary Reports

Each lab incorporated foresight exercises with brainstorming activities to develop contemporary AI policy approaches for a variety of domains, including housing, justice, education, immigration and hiring.