This month saw the European Conference on AI (ECAI 2020) go digital. Included in the programme were five plenary talks. In this article we summarise the talk by Professor Carme Torras who gave an overview of her group's work on assistive AI, and talked about the ethics of this field. Carme is based at the Institut de Robòtica i Informàtica Industrial (CSIC-UPC) in Barcelona. Her lab includes an assisted living facility where the team can test their robots in real-life situations.
It can no longer be denied that Artificial Intelligence is having a growing impact in many areas of human activity. It is helping humans communicate with each other--even beyond linguistic boundaries--, finding relevant information in the vast information resources available on the web, solving challenging problems that go beyond the competence of a single expert, enabling the deployment of autonomous systems, such as self-driving cars or other devices that handle complex interactions with the real world with little or no human intervention, and many other useful things. These applications are perhaps not like the fully autonomous, conscious and intelligent robots that science fiction stories have been predicting, but they are nevertheless important and useful, and most importantly they are real and here today. The growing impact of AI has triggered a kind of'gold rush': we see new research laboratories springing up, new AI start-up companies, and very significant investments, particularly by big digital tech companies, but also by transportation, manufacturing, financial, and many other industries. Management consulting companies are competing in their predictions on how big the economic impact of AI is going to be and governments are responding with strategic planning to see how their countries can avoid staying behind. Although all of this is good news, it cannot be denied that the application of AI comes with certain risks. Several initiatives have been taken in recent years to better understand the risks of AI deployment and came up with legal frameworks, codes of conduct, and value-based design methodologies.
The cultural and political implications of modern AI research are not some far off concern, they are things that affect the world in the here and now. From advanced control systems with advanced visualizations and image processing techniques that drive the machines of the modern military to the slow creep of a mechanized workforce, ethical questions surround us. Part of dealing with these ethical questions is not just speculating on what could be but teaching our students how to engage with these ethical questions. We explore the use of science fiction as an appropriate tool to enable AI researchers to help engage students and the public on the current state and potential impacts of AI.
The cyberspace and the development of new technologies, especially intelligent systems using artificial intelligence, present enormous challenges to computer professionals, data scientists, managers and policy makers. There is a need to address professional responsibility, ethical, legal, societal, and policy issues. This paper presents problems and issues relevant to computer professionals and decision makers and suggests a curriculum for a course on ethics, law and policy. Such a course will create awareness of the ethics issues involved in building and using software and artificial intelligence.