New institute to create ethically aware AI
CSIRO’s Data61 has partnered with the University of Sydney and Insurance Australia Group (IAG) in the creation of the Gradient Institute — an independent, not-for-profit organisation founded to research the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) and develop ethical AI-based systems.
The focus of the institute is to create a ‘world where all systems behave ethically’ — a goal it will seek to achieve through research, practice, policy advocacy, public awareness and training people in ethical development and use of AI. The institute will eventually use research findings to create open source ethical AI tools that can be adopted and adapted by business and government.
Leading the institute as CEO will be Bill Simpson-Young, following a transition from Director of Engineering and Design at Data61. He will lead in partnership with Dr Tiberio Caetano, co-founder and Chief Scientist at Ambiata, a wholly owned subsidiary of IAG, who will direct the institute’s research into ethical AI as Chief Scientist.
Simpson-Young said AI today poses a challenge and an opportunity to discover which design choices for AI will lead to positive outcomes for people and society.
“Artificial intelligence learns from data and data reflects the past — at the Gradient Institute we want the future to be better than the past,” he said.
“By embedding ethics into AI, we believe we will be able to choose ways to avoid the mistakes of the past by creating better outcomes through ethically aware machine learning.
“For example, in recruitment when automated systems use historical data to guide decision-making they can bias against subgroups who have historically been underrepresented in certain occupations.
“By embedding ethics in the creation of AI, we can mitigate these biases which are evident today in industries like retail, telecommunications and financial services.”
IAG Chief Customer Officer Julie Batch said being lead partner of Gradient Institute reflects her company’s focus on embracing innovation to create better customer experiences.
“Ethical AI will improve trust in how automated machines make decisions,” she said.
“IAG hopes to be an early adopter of the techniques and tools the institute develops so we can provide better experiences for our customers.
“Establishing the Gradient Institute as an independent not-for-profit organisation is critical in bringing its purpose to life and we hope that other organisations will join us to contribute to this research.”
Data61 CEO Adrian Turner said AI and machine learning will impact society and every sector of Australia’s economy, so “it’s critical to ensure technologies are developed with ethical considerations in mind”.
“We need to get this right as a country, to reap the benefits of AI from productivity gains to new-to-the-world value,” he said.
University of Sydney Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Duncan Ivison said there is a need to build an ethical framework for AI that combines deep knowledge of the technological possibilities and limits of artificial intelligence, but also ensures it is primarily shaped by human needs and interests.
“Research-intensive universities like the University of Sydney … are well placed to work collaboratively with government, industry and community groups to achieve this approach,” Prof Ivison said.
“We need to collaborate, critique each other and engage the community to tackle what is emerging as one of the great ethical challenges of our time.”
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