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Jun 27, 2020

AI gatekeepers are taking baby steps toward raising ethical standards

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI, surveillance

For years, Brent Hecht, an associate professor at Northwestern University who studies AI ethics, felt like a voice crying in the wilderness. When he entered the field in 2008, “I recall just agonizing about how to get people to understand and be interested and get a sense of how powerful some of the risks [of AI research] could be,” he says.

To be sure, Hecht wasn’t—and isn’t—the only academic studying the societal impacts of AI. But the group is small. “In terms of responsible AI, it is a sideshow for most institutions,” Hecht says. But in the past few years, that has begun to change. The urgency of AI’s ethical reckoning has only increased since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, shining a light on AI’s role in discriminatory police surveillance.

This year, for the first time, major AI conferences—the gatekeepers for publishing research—are forcing computer scientists to think about those consequences.

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