Various computer scientists, researchers, lawyers and other techies have recently been attending bi-monthly meetings in Montreal to discuss life’s big questions — as they relate to our increasingly intelligent machines.
Should a computer give medical advice? Is it acceptable for the legal system to use algorithms in order to decide whether convicts get paroled? Can an artificial agent that spouts racial slurs be held culpable?
And perhaps most pressing for many people: Are Facebook and other social media applications capable of knowing when a user is depressed or suffering a manic episode — and are these people being targeted with online advertisements in order to exploit them at their most vulnerable?
Researchers such as Abhishek Gupta are trying to help Montreal lead the world in ensuring AI is developed responsibly.
“The spotlight of the world is on (Montreal),” said Gupta, an AI ethics researcher at McGill University who is also a software developer in cybersecurity at Ericsson.
His bi-monthly “AI ethics meet-up” brings together people from around the city who want to influence the way researchers are thinking about machine-learning.
“In the past two months we’ve had six new AI labs open in Montreal,” Gupta said. “It makes complete sense we would also be the ones who would help guide the discussion on how to do it ethically.”
In November, Gupta and Universite de Montreal researchers helped create the Montreal Declaration for a Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence, which is a series of principles seeking to guide the evolution of AI in the city and across the planet.
Its principles are broken down into seven themes: well-being, autonomy, justice, privacy, knowledge, democracy and responsibility.
“How do we ensure that the benefits of AI are available to everyone?” Gupta asked his group. “What types of legal decisions can we delegate to AI?”
Doina Precup, a McGill University computer science professor and the Montreal head of DeepMind … said the global industry is starting to be preoccupied with the societal consequences of machine-learning, and Canadian values encourage the discussion.
“Montreal is a little ahead because we are in Canada,” Precup said. “Canada, compared to other parts of the world, has a different set of values that are more oriented towards ensuring everybody’s wellness. The background and culture of the country and the city matter a lot.”