Recap: WCT Panel on Ethics and AI, featuring Dr. Neil Randall

On Tuesday, June 25th the GI's Executive Director and Chair of the UWaterloo Ethics Technology and Social Impact (ETSI) Council, Dr. Neil Randall, was part of the panel "Wo(man) and machine—who makes the decisions and why?" discussing the ethics and future of artificial intelligence (AI).

The panel was hosted by the Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) group whose goal is to inspire women to build careers in technology and digital economy in Canada. They are a local and national organization that works on networkship, equality on the leadership experts table, workshops, and building professionalism.

Ethics and AI panel featuring five panelists

The panel covered superficial and commercial views of AI as well as its recent, exponential growth and the lack of understanding in the industry. The experts explained that corporations mostly hear "AI" and think "I hear about this AI thing, can we purchase it?" Not only do we need to improve our collective understanding of AI, we need serious discussions about the ethics and social implications surrounding it.

Ethical concerns, such as privacy implications and commercialization of AI, were discussed in the context of the lack of education and understanding. The majority of corporations do not have ethics boards that hold executives accountable to decisions, nor do we, as a society, have an informed ethical framework for tackling challenges associated with AI.

The panelists pointed out that Computer Science and Engineering programs do not offer many courses in social implications or ethics, nor are these courses mandatory for students pursuing careers in these fields. If ethical concerns are not being emphatically taught in higher education, how can we expect the tech industry to properly incorporate ethics into their work?

All panelists advocated for increasing education at the University level so that when students enter the workforce, they will already be thinking about AI in terms of impact. They also stressed having ethics boards in place on a government level who are specialists trained in technological fields.

Other panel experts included: Professor Maura Grossman, Director of Women in Computer Science at Uwaterloo and pioneer in eDiscovery; Sheldon Fernandex, CEO of DarwinAI; Dr. Rozita Dara, Principal Investigator of Data Management and Privacy Governance research program at the University of Guelph; and Lynda Parner, vice president of analytics at Phythion and certified quantitative researcher.