How is the University of Waterloo contributing to the responsible use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

Given Waterloo’s leading role in innovation in the technology sector, and the developing research and commercialization of AI, this is an important question to consider. Professor Alexander Wong believes that Waterloo has an important role to play in helping to shape and guide the ethical use of AI.

On November 9, the University of Waterloo will be joining other AI industry thought leaders that includes Apple, Google, and Facebook in the Partnership on AI initiative. Alexander Wong is a professor in the Systems Design Engineering department and Co-Director of the Vision and Image Processing (VIP) Research Group at Waterloo. He will be spearheading the VIP research group’s collaborations with the Partnership on AI.

“We want to build responsible AI that considers ethical ramifications and asks, what is the best benefit for humanity,” said Wong.

Prior to Waterloo joining the Partnership on AI, the consortium was predominantly made up of American businesses. Ten new global, cross-sectional partners have been added to this group. The addition of Waterloo will lend a Canadian and academic voice to the partnership.

Partnership on AI’s Executive Director, Terah Lyons, said, “we are proud to welcome a diverse new group of organizations and perspectives to the Partnership on AI, and I look forward to seeing the impact of their contributions. Technology is a series of decisions made by humans, and by involving more viewpoints and perspectives in the AI debate we will be able to improve the quality of those decisions.”

Wong explained that, “large corporations may see things a certain way, often considering the economics of decisions, where this is not our focus. We see things in a different light … bringing an academic perspective.”

The VIP research group will sit on the Fair, Transparent, and Accountable AI Working Group. Wong hopes to attend some of the working group sessions himself but also hopes to see his fellow VIP co-directors and PhD students attend and provide their expertise and guidance to the group.

Responsible AI is the talk around campus

Professor Rob Gorbet, chair of the Department of Knowledge Integration, wanted to understand how Waterloo was addressing responsible AI and the role that industry, government, and academia play in the ethics of AI. Knowledge Integration is a program that trains students to tackle important interdisciplinary problems, so they were pleased to partner with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Communitech to organize a panel on Responsible AI on November 7.

Gorbet sees that the solutions to the ethics of AI requires an interdisciplinary approach that allows for multiple perspectives and voices in the conversation.

“It behooves us to have the right conversation early on in order to make sure that we’re doing [AI] responsibly and getting it right,” explained Gorbet. “And that means getting specialists from philosophy, ethics and sociology, and bringing them into the conversation alongside the engineers and the computer scientists as they’re developing the technology.”

Keeping the Human in AI

This discussion around responsible AI will continue as AI technology becomes increasingly more prevalent in our daily lives. On November 28, join Doug Peers, dean the Faculty of Arts, and a panel of professors with expertise in economics, philosophy, and human-computer interaction for a discussion about what we need to know and do to ensure AI serves humanity for the good of everyone.

Visit the event page to learn more or register to attend.