AI + Society Initiative

Supported by Scotiabank at the University of Ottawa

A new initiative for a better understanding and framing of the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI by leveraging a transdisciplinary approach.

 

On January 28, 2020, the University of Ottawa and Scotiabank announced a generous gift to create the Scotiabank Fund for the AI + Society Initiative at the University of Ottawa that will support the development of a Canadian AI + Society Initiative, leading to a better understanding and framing of the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI research and its uses. The new AI + Society Initiative will be led by Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau, Director of the University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section.

 

The rapid pace of AI development adds to the challenges facing modern societies, their citizens and raises multiple ethical, legal, and policy issues. This requires a better understanding of the societal implications of AI.

 

The AI + Society Initiative will define problems and identify solutions to essential issues related to ethical AI and technology development. The research will leverage a transdisciplinary approach to advance AI methods and tools, with a focus on their responsible applications. 

The Initiative will promote an inclusive research agenda with a specific focus on avoiding the amplification of global digital injustices through AI for affected communities. The research will include many important voices such as women, youth, seniors, Indigenous People, LGBTQIA+, visible minorities, people with disabilities, and linguistic minorities (such as French and Indigenous Languages) – and those at the intersection of these identities.

The new Initiative will offer students new opportunities to gain experience, locally and abroad, in an emerging field that will have profound implications on Canadian society in the years to come. The Initiative’s outreach will include lectures, conferences and workshops, training, tools, frameworks, and white papers that will help develop global thought-leadership on AI and society. While being grounded in rigorous evidence-based academic research, most outreach (public lectures, training, tools, white papers, reports) will be developed with the general public in mind, so non-academic stakeholders can take ownership, and implement them, to have a transformative impact within their communities.

 

The Scotiabank Fund for the AI and Society Initiative will support a research agenda organized under two streams:

AI + Inclusion

Designing Ethical and Inclusive AI Systems

The AI + Inclusion stream will promote a research agenda around developing effective inclusive and participatory ethical design/engineering frameworks for AI systems, notably with respect to avoiding the disturbing risk of amplifying global digital injustices through AI for women, youth, seniors, Indigenous People, LGBTQIA+, racialized people, people with disabilities, and linguistic minorities (such as French and Indigenous Languages)—and those at the intersection of these identities. The research will also consider specific concerns regarding people in the North and remote communities, and developing nations.

While promising important benefits, unchecked AI development introduces significant challenges, from creating uncertainty surrounding the future of work, to shifts in power to new structures outside the control of existing and understood governance and accountability frameworks. What is particularly problematic is how these challenges can have a disproportionate impact on marginalized populations, amplifying existing injustices.

This research will pioneer best practices while proposing tools and frameworks for ethical engineering of AI systems. For example, we will investigate how to develop effective ethical requirements for AI, implement those requirements and, critically, verify that they have been effectively implemented.

AI + Regulation

Shaping Global AI Regulation

Emerging artificial intelligence tools are constantly complicating previously straightforward areas of domestic and international policy. The AI + Regulation stream will focus on the regulation of AI and automation around the world to inform Canadian policymakers and actors. For example, copyright and privacy laws are also important to ensure more inclusive, less biased AI systems. You need to be able to access more information, more data to be able to better know society and include more diverse voices, opinions and realities.

This research will be led in collaboration with our global research network. Indeed, the ubiquity of the global and digital economy calls for comparative studies to design adequate frameworks. While most of our regulations are made at the national level, reflecting local values, there is bound to be conflict where different states approach their policies and regulatory frameworks with competing interests and societal values in mind. Yet, those states may not share the same core sets of societal values.

This research stream will aim at developing tools and frameworks to tackle these issues. Our global initiative will promote collaborative work to share best practices across jurisdictions while rendering current legislative AI tools more accessible.

The Initiative has adopted a very agile development and leadership framework to respond to society’s latest challenges. In the near future, the team is expected to welcome new members and expand the research agenda to integrate a third stream on issues related to health and environmental topics.

 

The AI + Society Initiative will aim at participating in the global conversation and build capacity for a global thought leadership in Canada.

We will leverage a wide collaborative network, notably in the United States, the European Union, Israel, India, Brazil, Mexico, Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Africa. Building on existing collaborations, the Initiative will spearhead the development of joint activities, notably inviting leading experts from these regions to bring new perspectives within North American discourses around AI, and by supporting the training of Canadian students and researchers within those countries.

hosted at
the University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society

The new initiative builds on 20 years of award-winning research at the University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society, Canada’s leading research hub for law, ethics and policy surrounding technology, gathering, in an interdisciplinary setting, researchers from the Faculties of Law, Social Sciences, Arts, and Engineering includes more than 100 researchers and students at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Founded in 2009, CLTS is globally recognized as a premier research group in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics, cybersecurity, intellectual property, privacy and health technologies.

  


Opportunities

Program Manager

We are looking for an inspiring program manager to support the Scientific Director and the affiliated researchers in the development of the new initiative!

See the job posting

Other opportunities will soon be announced!

  


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