Grant to Boost Understanding of Ethical, Political, and Legal Implications of Machine Learning

Sandlin, Anu  |  Jan 30, 2019

implications
machine learning
artificial intelligence
Ken Fleischmann
Sherri Greenberg
Cisco Research Center
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Texas School of Information Associate Professor Ken Fleischmann received a $100,000 grant from the Legal Implications for IoT, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence Systems programCisco Research Center, for "Field Research with Policy, Legal, and Technological Experts about Transparency, Trust, and Agency in Machine Learning." The Cisco Research Center connects researchers and developers from Cisco, academia, governments, customers, and industry partners with the goal of facilitating collaboration and exploration of new and promising technologies.

The request for proposals (RFP 16-02) invited researchers to investigate legal and policy issues in the quickly developing world of machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), machine-to-machine interactions, and the rapidly expanding world of data creation, transfer, collection, and analysis from Internet of Things (IoT).

How can we ensure that ML experts are aware of the ethical, political, and legal implications of ML, and that policy experts and legal scholars are up to date in their understanding of ML and its potential societal implications?

The project’s principal investigators, Dr. Fleischmann and Sherri Greenberg of the LBJ School of Public Affairsexplain that while machine learning has the potential to revolutionize society, transform how we do business, defend our homeland, and heal diseases, it also raises numerous ethical challenges, which our legal and political systems are largely ill-equipped to deal with. In their proposal, they ask: “How can we ensure that ML experts are aware of the ethical, political, and legal implications of ML, and that policy experts and legal scholars are up to date in their understanding of ML and its potential societal implications?”

According to Fleischmann, the project’s goal is to “bridge the gap in expertise among technology experts and legal and policy experts.” On one hand, this involves helping legal and policy experts to understand the limits of technology, both at present and (our best projection of what will be possible) ten years down the road, and on the other, helping technology experts to understand the legal and policy implications of their work,” said Fleischmann.

Fleischmann explains that this project can lead to insights that enhance the academic education and workplace training of technologists, as well as legal and policy scholars in future research. Not only does it have the potential “to help educate and prepare ML researchers and developers about the potential ethical, legal, and policy implications of their work, but it will also help prepare future policy makers and legislators about how to regulate and legislate to ensure safe and efficient use of ML.”

Dr. Ken Fleischmann Wins 2018 Social Informatics Best Paper Award

Sandlin, Anu  |  Nov 26, 2018

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Professor Fleischmann presenting at the ASIS&T Conference
Texas iSchool
Ken Fleischmann
Social Informatics
Best Paper Award
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Professor Fleischmann accepting Best Social Informatics paper award

Texas iSchool Associate Professor Ken Fleischmann recently accepted the 2018 Social Informatics Best Paper Award from the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) Special Interest Group for Social Informatics.

Based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation, the paper, “The Societal Responsibilities of Computational Modelers: Human Values and Professional Codes of Ethics,” focuses on understanding how values shape modelers’ experiences with and attitudes toward codes of ethics. The findings reveal that individuals who place great value on equality and social justice are more likely to advocate for following a code of ethics. 

Fleischmann explains that innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) have advanced computational modeling to a point where its design can have life-or-death consequences – especially because AI-based computational models are used to predict climate change, design aircraft, and evaluate and refine medical techniques. “Thus, it is important that computational modelers are both willing and able to consider not only the technical implications, but also the societal implications of their work.”

It is important that computational modelers are both willing and able to consider not only the technical implications, but also the societal implications of their work.

The Social Informatics Best Paper Award recognizes the best paper published in a peer-reviewed journal on a topic informed by social informatics during the previous calendar year.

The winning paper, co-authored with Cindy Hui and William A. Wallace of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology in 2017 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/asi.23697).

Fleischmann presented the paper on November 10 in Vancouver, Canada at the ASIS&T 2018 Annual Meeting, during The 14th Annual Social Informatics Research Symposium: Sociotechnical perspective on ethics and governance of emerging information technologies.

“There is no greater professional honor than for your work to be recognized by your peers,” notes Fleischmann. “I hope that this will help to further shine a spotlight on the important ethical implications of AI.”

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