Collaborating Authors


Big Tech is fueling an AI "arms race": It could be terrifying -- or just a giant scam


Early in the 2020 presidential campaign, Democratic candidates Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang tried to build political momentum around the claim that the United States is losing ground in a new arms race with China -- not over nuclear missiles or conventional arms but artificial intelligence, or AI. Around the same time, former President Trump launched the American AI Initiative, which sought to marshal AI technologies against "adversarial nations for the security of our economy and our nation," as Trump's top technology adviser put it. Buttigieg, Yang and Trump may have agreed about little else, but they appeared to go along with the nonpartisan think tanks and public policy organizations –– many of them funded by weapons contractors –– that have worked to promote the supposedly alarming possibility that China and Russia may be "beating" the U.S. in defense applications for AI. Hawkish or "centrist" research organizations like the Center for New American Security (CNAS), the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation, despite their policy and ideological differences in many areas, have argued that America must ratchet up spending on AI research and development, lest it lose its place as No. 1. Just last week, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) published a sweeping 756-page report, culminating two years of work following the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, asking Congress to authorize a $40 billion federal investment in AI research and development, which the NSCAI calls "a modest down payment."

The Contestation of Tech Ethics: A Sociotechnical Approach to Ethics and Technology in Action Artificial Intelligence

Recent controversies related to topics such as fake news, privacy, and algorithmic bias have prompted increased public scrutiny of digital technologies and soul-searching among many of the people associated with their development. In response, the tech industry, academia, civil society, and governments have rapidly increased their attention to "ethics" in the design and use of digital technologies ("tech ethics"). Yet almost as quickly as ethics discourse has proliferated across the world of digital technologies, the limitations of these approaches have also become apparent: tech ethics is vague and toothless, is subsumed into corporate logics and incentives, and has a myopic focus on individual engineers and technology design rather than on the structures and cultures of technology production. As a result of these limitations, many have grown skeptical of tech ethics and its proponents, charging them with "ethics-washing": promoting ethics research and discourse to defuse criticism and government regulation without committing to ethical behavior. By looking at how ethics has been taken up in both science and business in superficial and depoliticizing ways, I recast tech ethics as a terrain of contestation where the central fault line is not whether it is desirable to be ethical, but what "ethics" entails and who gets to define it. This framing highlights the significant limits of current approaches to tech ethics and the importance of studying the formulation and real-world effects of tech ethics. In order to identify and develop more rigorous strategies for reforming digital technologies and the social relations that they mediate, I describe a sociotechnical approach to tech ethics, one that reflexively applies many of tech ethics' own lessons regarding digital technologies to tech ethics itself.

Correcting public opinion trends through Bayesian data assimilation Artificial Intelligence

Measuring public opinion is a key focus during democratic elections, enabling candidates to gauge their popularity and alter their campaign strategies accordingly. Traditional survey polling remains the most popular estimation technique, despite its cost and time intensity, measurement errors, lack of real-time capabilities and lagged representation of public opinion. In recent years, Twitter opinion mining has attempted to combat these issues. Despite achieving promising results, it experiences its own set of shortcomings such as an unrepresentative sample population and a lack of long term stability. This paper aims to merge data from both these techniques using Bayesian data assimilation to arrive at a more accurate estimate of true public opinion for the Brexit referendum. This paper demonstrates the effectiveness of the proposed approach using Twitter opinion data and survey data from trusted pollsters. Firstly, the possible existence of a time gap of 16 days between the two data sets is identified. This gap is subsequently incorporated into a proposed assimilation architecture. This method was found to adequately incorporate information from both sources and measure a strong upward trend in Leave support leading up to the Brexit referendum. The proposed technique provides useful estimates of true opinion, which is essential to future opinion measurement and forecasting research.

AI's Future Doesn't Have to Be Dystopian


The direction of AI development is not preordained. It can be altered to increase human productivity, create jobs and shared prosperity, and protect and bolster democratic freedoms--if we modify our approach. The direction of AI development is not preordained. It can be altered to increase human productivity, create jobs and shared prosperity, and protect and bolster democratic freedoms--if we modify our approach. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not likely to make humans redundant. Nor will it create superintelligence anytime soon. But like it or not, AI technologies and intelligent systems will make huge advances in the next two decades--revolutionizing medicine, entertainment, and transport; transforming jobs and markets; enabling many new products and tools; and vastly increasing the amount of information that governments and companies have about individuals. Should we cherish and look forward to these developments, or fear them? Current AI research is too narrowly focused on making advances in a limited set of domains and pays insufficient attention to its disruptive effects on the very fabric of society. There are reasons to be concerned. Current AI research is too narrowly focused on making advances in a limited set of domains and pays insufficient attention to its disruptive effects on the very fabric of society. If AI technology continues to develop along its current path, it is likely to create social upheaval for at least two reasons. For one, AI will affect the future of jobs. Our current trajectory automates work to an excessive degree while refusing to invest in human productivity; further advances will displace workers and fail to create new opportunities (and, in the process, miss out on AI's full potential to enhance productivity). For another, AI may undermine democracy and individual freedoms. Each of these directions is alarming, and the two together are ominous. Shared prosperity and democratic political participation do not just critically reinforce each other: they are the two backbones of our modern society.

The State of AI Ethics Report (January 2021) Artificial Intelligence

The 3rd edition of the Montreal AI Ethics Institute's The State of AI Ethics captures the most relevant developments in AI Ethics since October 2020. It aims to help anyone, from machine learning experts to human rights activists and policymakers, quickly digest and understand the field's ever-changing developments. Through research and article summaries, as well as expert commentary, this report distills the research and reporting surrounding various domains related to the ethics of AI, including: algorithmic injustice, discrimination, ethical AI, labor impacts, misinformation, privacy, risk and security, social media, and more. In addition, The State of AI Ethics includes exclusive content written by world-class AI Ethics experts from universities, research institutes, consulting firms, and governments. Unique to this report is "The Abuse and Misogynoir Playbook," written by Dr. Katlyn Tuner (Research Scientist, Space Enabled Research Group, MIT), Dr. Danielle Wood (Assistant Professor, Program in Media Arts and Sciences; Assistant Professor, Aeronautics and Astronautics; Lead, Space Enabled Research Group, MIT) and Dr. Catherine D'Ignazio (Assistant Professor, Urban Science and Planning; Director, Data + Feminism Lab, MIT). The piece (and accompanying infographic), is a deep-dive into the historical and systematic silencing, erasure, and revision of Black women's contributions to knowledge and scholarship in the United Stations, and globally. Exposing and countering this Playbook has become increasingly important following the firing of AI Ethics expert Dr. Timnit Gebru (and several of her supporters) at Google. This report should be used not only as a point of reference and insight on the latest thinking in the field of AI Ethics, but should also be used as a tool for introspection as we aim to foster a more nuanced conversation regarding the impacts of AI on the world.

Mitigating Political Bias in Language Models Through Reinforced Calibration Artificial Intelligence

Current large-scale language models can be politically biased as a result of the data they are trained on, potentially causing serious problems when they are deployed in real-world settings. In this paper, we describe metrics for measuring political bias in GPT-2 generation and propose a reinforcement learning (RL) framework for mitigating political biases in generated text. By using rewards from word embeddings or a classifier, our RL framework guides debiased generation without having access to the training data or requiring the model to be retrained. In empirical experiments on three attributes sensitive to political bias (gender, location, and topic), our methods reduced bias according to both our metrics and human evaluation, while maintaining readability and semantic coherence.

The Role of Context in Detecting Previously Fact-Checked Claims Artificial Intelligence

Recent years have seen the proliferation of disinformation and misinformation online, thanks to the freedom of expression on the Internet and to the rise of social media. Two solutions were proposed to address the problem: (i) manual fact-checking, which is accurate and credible, but slow and non-scalable, and (ii) automatic fact-checking, which is fast and scalable, but lacks explainability and credibility. With the accumulation of enough manually fact-checked claims, a middle-ground approach has emerged: checking whether a given claim has previously been fact-checked. This can be made automatically, and thus fast, while also offering credibility and explainability, thanks to the human fact-checking and explanations in the associated fact-checking article. This is a relatively new and understudied research direction, and here we focus on claims made in a political debate, where context really matters. Thus, we study the impact of modeling the context of the claim: both on the source side, i.e., in the debate, as well as on the target side, i.e., in the fact-checking explanation document. We do this by modeling the local context, the global context, as well as by means of co-reference resolution, and reasoning over the target text using Transformer-XH. The experimental results show that each of these represents a valuable information source, but that modeling the source-side context is more important, and can yield 10+ points of absolute improvement.

Mitigating Media Bias through Neutral Article Generation Artificial Intelligence

Media bias can lead to increased political polarization, and thus, the need for automatic mitigation methods is growing. Existing mitigation work displays articles from multiple news outlets to provide diverse news coverage, but without neutralizing the bias inherent in each of the displayed articles. Therefore, we propose a new task, a single neutralized article generation out of multiple biased articles, to facilitate more efficient access to balanced and unbiased information. In this paper, we compile a new dataset NeuWS, define an automatic evaluation metric, and provide baselines and multiple analyses to serve as a solid starting point for the proposed task. Lastly, we obtain a human evaluation to demonstrate the alignment between our metric and human judgment.

Do Not Be Alarmed by Wild Predictions of Robots Taking Everyone's Jobs


In February, McKinsey Global Institute predicted that 45 million Americans--one-quarter of the workforce--would lose their jobs to automation by 2030. That was up from its 2017 estimate that 39 million would be automated out of work, due to the economic dislocation of COVID-19. Historically, firms tend to replace some of the workers they fire during recessions with machines. Fear of robot-driven mass unemployment has become increasingly mainstream. Andrew Yang, who is currently leading the polls for the Democratic nomination to be the next mayor of New York City, made it a pillar of his unorthodox 2020 presidential campaign.

What Happens When Our Faces Are Tracked Everywhere We Go?


When a secretive start-up scraped the internet to build a facial-recognition tool, it tested a legal and ethical limit -- and blew the future of privacy in America wide open. In May 2019, an agent at the Department of Homeland Security received a trove of unsettling images. Found by Yahoo in a Syrian user's account, the photos seemed to document the sexual abuse of a young girl. One showed a man with his head reclined on a pillow, gazing directly at the camera. The man appeared to be white, with brown hair and a goatee, but it was hard to really make him out; the photo was grainy, the angle a bit oblique. The agent sent the man's face to child-crime investigators around the country in the hope that someone might recognize him. When an investigator in New York saw the request, she ran the face through an unusual new facial-recognition app she had just started using, called Clearview AI. The team behind it had scraped the public web -- social media, employment sites, YouTube, Venmo -- to create a database with three billion images of people, along with links to the webpages from which the photos had come. This dwarfed the databases of other such products for law enforcement, which drew only on official photography like mug shots, driver's licenses and passport pictures; with Clearview, it was effortless to go from a face to a Facebook account. The app turned up an odd hit: an Instagram photo of a heavily muscled Asian man and a female fitness model, posing on a red carpet at a bodybuilding expo in Las Vegas. The suspect was neither Asian nor a woman. But upon closer inspection, you could see a white man in the background, at the edge of the photo's frame, standing behind the counter of a booth for a workout-supplements company. On Instagram, his face would appear about half as big as your fingernail. The federal agent was astounded. The agent contacted the supplements company and obtained the booth worker's name: Andres Rafael Viola, who turned out to be an Argentine citizen living in Las Vegas.