Artificial intelligence and related technologies have begun to shape important parts of the digital economy and affect core areas of our increasingly networked societies. Whether it be transportation, manufacturing, or social justice, AI has the potential to deeply impact our lives and transform our futures in ways both visible and hidden. The promise of AI-based technologies is enormous, and benefits range from efficiency gains to unprecedented improvements in quality of life. The challenges, however, are equally staggering, for example creating uncertainty surrounding the future of labor and the shifts in power to new structures outside the control of existing governance and accountability frameworks. More specifically, the uneven access to and impact of AI-based technologies on marginalized populations run the disturbing risk of amplifying global digital inequalities. These groups include urban and rural poor communities, women, youth, LGBTQ individuals, ethnic and racial groups, people with disabilities – and particularly those at the intersection of these identities.
A complex set of issues exist at the intersection of AI development and the application divide between the Global North and the Global South. Some of the thematic areas include health and wellbeing, education, and humanitarian crisis mitigation, as well as cross-cutting themes such as data and infrastructure, law and governance, and algorithms and design, among others. We are examining the core areas and cross-cutting themes through research, events, and multi-stakeholder dialogues. The following materials are informed by the multitude of these efforts, which incorporates perspectives from a wide array of experts in this emerging field.
When considering the social impact of AI, conceptualizing inclusion may become even more difficult because AI systems are powered by pattern recognition and classification, which, broadly speaking, often drive exclusionary social processes. Because of this, AI has feedback effects on the notion of inclusion itself. There are questions that we should be asking in order to further shape our own views and understandings as to how to conceptualize AI. This reading list is meant to serve as a starting point for exploring the ways in which we may think about the very notion of social inclusion/exclusion itself in the age of AI, as well as the complex ways in which autonomous systems interface with various dimensions of inclusion and questions that arise at this intersection.
In preparing for the Global Symposium on AI and Inclusion, the organizers conducted a survey amongst participants about the challenges, opportunities, application areas, and dimensions of inclusion of interest to be further explored at the event. The Pre-Event Survey Responses document is a brief look at the survey responses, with a particular focus on comparisons between the Global South and the Global North. In total, we captured 150 responses to the survey, and categorized regions as the following: Global South (Latin America/Caribbean, Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Northern Africa), and Global North (Europe, North America, Oceania). A few main geographic discrepancies in the perception of the greatest challenges and opportunities of AI that emerged from the survey. Though these survey responses draw from a limited sample, they demonstrate the differing approaches to AI and its societal implications across geographic region, highlighting the need for greater cross-cultural collaboration and dialogue on the development, deployment, and evaluation of AI.
The Global Symposium, co-hosted on behalf of the Network of Centers by ITS Rio and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, involved over 170 participants from more than 40 countries around the world and took place over the course of three days (November 8-10, 2017) at the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Symposium was organized with the support of the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the Open Society Foundations, in collaboration with the Museum of Tomorrow.
For more information on the logistics and themes of the Global Symposium on AI & Inclusion, please see the links to the right.
DotPlot, An interactive visualization that shows the global perception of AI & inclusion from the participants
Write-ups about the event:
Grounding conversations about AI and inclusion within a shared, contextualized understanding of fundamental concepts at play is crucial, as doing so allows us to begin conceptualizing best approaches to mitigating potential risks and maximizing the benefits of AI based on that shared understanding of AI’s societal interplay. The following three overarching themes and critical issues emerged both from the research leading up to as well as the conversations that took place at the Global Symposium on AI and Inclusion.
The video on the right features both Ansaf Salleb-Aouissi (Columbia University), who frames the history of AI and how we should view inclusion starting from a technical perspective, and Nishant Shah (ArtEZ University of the Arts), who discussed inclusion in the age of AI, calling for a breakdown of the dichotomy between the human element and the technological element.
Through our research and convening efforts we have identified a series of open research questions which serve as a starting place for forward-looking research road map. These research questions are closely linked to stages of technical development for AI systems. For that reason, we have clustered these questions into a matrix, vertically by the stages of developing an AI system and horizontally by mechanisms for intervention. The structure of the matrix, in addition to a brief description of each category, is outlined below for reference, along with key questions for each cell in the matrix. For more detailed information on the methodology for categorizing research questions, greater background on where they are drawn from, and the full research matrix, please refer to our full research memo.
Defining the Development Stages of an AI System (Horizontal):
Defining the Mechanisms for Intervention (Vertical):
When it comes to prioritizing research questions as well as proposing solutions derived from them, our work on AI and inclusion suggests that it is vital to distill the greatest opportunities and challenges decision-makers face while grappling with AI-based technologies, particularly in Global South contexts. Although a number of action items and constructive approaches are warranted, three primary considerations emerged as integral to addressing the opportunities and challenges at the intersection of AI and inclusion found in the research questions. Please use the text box to the right to explore themes in these opportunities and challenges.
As we consider future opportunities and challenges related to AI & inclusion, it is vital to continue incorporating global perspectives so that we may progress into a truly inclusive future. To this, we have interviewed a number of key global players working on these issues for their input in 120 seconds. Interviewees include, among others, Carlos Affonso, Director of ITS Rio, and Nagla Rizk, Founding Director of Access to Knowledge for Development (A2K4D). The full set of videos and additional resources are listed below.
This project is supported by the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. In conjunction with the MIT Media Lab, the Initiative is developing activities, research, and tools to ensure that fast-advancing AI serves the public good. Learn more at https://cyber.harvard.edu/research/ai.
The team at the Berkman Klein Center working on issues related to AI & Inclusion includes (click on each photo to learn more):
Youth & Media
Key collaborators include the Institute for Technology and Society Rio, which is currently the main coordinator of the Global Network of Centers and the hosts of the November 2017 Global Symposium on AI & Inclusion. The team at ITS Rio working on AI & inclusion includes, among many others, the following:
Carlos Affonso Souza
Co-Founder and Director
Co-Founder and Director
Beatriz Laus Nunes
Project Assistant and Researcher
Law and Technology
For more information about the network of experts, practitioners, policymakers, and technologists who have contributed to the dialogue on AI & inclusion, as well as the donors that have supported it, please see the Global Symposium on AI & Inclusion website.