An initiative for a better understanding and framing of the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI by leveraging a transdisciplinary approach.
The AI + Society Initiative aims at defining problems and identifying solutions to essential issues related to ethical AI and technology development. The research leverages a transdisciplinary approach to advance AI methods and tools, with a focus on responsible deployment and application.
The Initiative promotes an inclusive research agenda with a specific focus on amplifying voices and research that does not perpetuate systems of injustice and oppression for affected communities. The research and conversations we aim to highlight focus on the inclusion of voices and perspectives of women, youth, seniors, Indigenous People, LGBTQIA2S+, racialized communities, people with disabilities, and linguistic minorities–and those at the intersection of these identities.
The rapid pace of AI development adds to the challenges facing modern societies and their citizens, simultaneously raising multiple ethical, legal, and policy issues. This requires a better understanding of the societal implications of AI.
Thanks to a generous gift from Scotiabank, the Initiative was announced on January 28th, 2020 with the creation of the Scotiabank Fund for the AI + Society Initiative at the University of Ottawa to 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 Scotiabank Fund supports two research programs on AI and Inclusion, and AI and Regulation. In Summer 2020, the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue funded a new research program on AI for Healthy Humans and Environments that lead to the creation of two additional research streams on AI and Healthcare and AI and Environment.
The Scotiabank Fund for the AI and Society Initiative supports a research program which focuses on designing ethical and inclusive AI systems and shaping global AI regulation.
Beyond supporting the overarching goals of the Initiative, the Scotiabank Fund for the AI and Society Initiative supports research seeking to (re)define problems and to identify solutions to challenging issues related to ethical AI and technology development. Through our research activities, we offer students new opportunities to gain experience, locally and abroad, in an emerging field that will have profound implications (both positive and negative) on Canadian society in the years to come. The outreach component—lectures, conferences, training, tools, frameworks, and white papers—will help position and support Canadian thought-leadership on AI ethics, law and policy.
AI + Inclusion
Designing Ethical and Inclusive AI Systems
This stream promotes a research agenda on developing effective inclusive, and participatory ethical design and engineering frameworks for AI systems, notably with respect to avoid the disturbing risk of amplifying global digital injustices through AI for women, youth, seniors, Indigenous People, LGBTQIA2S+, racialized people, people with disabilities, and linguistic minorities (such as French and Indigenous Languages)—and those at the intersection of these identities.
AI + Regulation
Shaping Global AI Regulation
The emergence and rapid development of artificial intelligence has forced domestic and international policymakers to question the applications of these normative frameworks. This stream focuses on the regulation of AI and automation around the world to inform Canadian policymakers and actors to better respond to the evolution of technology. This also includes to critically discuss legal frameworks as we need to be able to access more information and data to be able to better understand society and include more diverse voices, opinions and realities.
The Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue supports a research program on the future of healthcare and the environment.
The “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” powered by advanced computing and large datasets and characterized by a fusion of the physical, digital, and biological spheres promises to radically and rapidly transform many sectors and impact the lives of Canadians. The health and environmental applications of AI and big data have yet to receive adequate scholarly attention, and yet policy makers need research support to build evidence-based public policy in this area. It seems evident that AI will impact the health of humans via improvements of systems and service delivery, and will also impact environmental health--notably through data-driven sustainability improvements in food production, which is one of the most significant contributors to global climate change.
The Alex Trebek Forum for r Dialogue funded the Project on AI for Healthy Humans and Environments to support public policy makers to better analyze the benefits and challenges of AI related to the health of humans and non-human environments with the overall goal of contributing to human flourishment in the 21st Century. The project will adopt a problem-based approach and will address issues through transdisciplinary research, in collaboration with industry, communities and government partners, and aims at developing tools and a framework to support policymakers in Canada and abroad in implementing “smart” changes–ones which support healthier and more sustainable AI-powered healthcare and food production.
AI and the Future of Healthcare
Advancements underway in AI and machine learning have been portended to transform our world on a scale that surpasses previous Industrial Revolutions. AI will not only assist, and become an integral part of the medical decision-making team, but potentially substitute for human caregivers, medical service providers, diagnosticians and expert decision-makers. The research will survey the salient legal issues that emerge as we consider the appropriate adoption of AI and machine learning into health care systems.
AI and the Future of Environment
Food production is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. through methane production at large cattle feedlots) and to soil and biodiversity degradation. AI promises to revolutionize agriculture and drastically reduce its environmental loading by allowing for the precise use of resources through big data-driven advice generated by machine learning. The research aims to shed light on both the environmental and social impacts of big data and AI in food production, with a focus on creating action items for policy-makers to enable the sustainability gains presented by emerging digitization while fairly distributing its risks.
The Initiative has adopted a very agile development and leadership framework to respond to society’s latest challenges. In the near future, the Initiative is expected to welcome new members and continue to expand its research agenda.
The AI + Society Initiative aims at participating in the global conversation and building capacity for a global thought leadership in Canada.
The Initiative offers 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 includes lectures, conferences and workshops, as well as training, tools, frameworks, and white papers that will help develop and actively contribute to global thought-leadership on AI and society. While being grounded in rigorous evidence-based academic research, a portion of our outreach (public lectures, training, tools, white papers, and reports) will be developed in collaboration with the general public. Through this participatory approach, non-academic stakeholders can take ownership, and implement the research and discussion findings to have a transformative impact within their communities.
We will leverage a global 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 on AI, and by supporting the training of Canadian students and researchers within those countries.
An initiative hosted at the University of Ottawa
Incubated at the University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society, the initiative builds on 20 years of award-winning research at Canada’s leading research hub for law, ethics and policy surrounding technology that operates in an interdisciplinary setting and includes researchers from the Faculties of Law, Social Sciences, Arts, and Engineering with more than 150 researchers and students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.
Beyond the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue’s Project on AI for Healthy Humans and Environment brings forth the expertise of the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics, the Institute for Science, Society and Policy, as well as a network of leading experts from the Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability, the LIFE Institute, the Centre for Governance, and the Centre for Public Law.
The AI + Society Initiative has been developed as a university strategic initiative under the stewardship of the Office of the Vice President, Research jointly with the Office of the Vice President, External Relations, in response and in full alignment to the Transformation 2030 strategic plan. Indeed, the Initiative fully engages with the four Strategic Areas of Research: “Advancing Just Societies”, “Shaping the Digital World”, “Creating a sustainable environment”, and “Enabling lifelong health and wellness”.