New centre to address AI and digital ethics

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The Centre seeks to facilitate cross-disciplinary research and teaching to promote the fair, safe and accountable use and regulation of AI and digital technologies.

A new centre for artificial intelligence (AI) and digital ethics has been launched by the University Melbourne to address ethical, policy and legal challenges posed by new technologies.

Combining expertise from Melbourne Law School, Melbourne School of Engineering, the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Science, the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Ethics (CAIDE) will bring insights to AI and digital ethics with a uniquely Australian focus.

The Centre seeks to facilitate cross-disciplinary research and teaching to promote the fair, safe and accountable use and regulation of AI and digital technologies, drawing on a range of different perspectives including from the humanities, social sciences, science, law and engineering.

CAIDE co-director Professor Jeannie Paterson from Melbourne Law School said the Centre will help address current issues, including those related to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and prepare for future challenges surrounding AI and digital technology by drawing on the expertise of scholars across its member faculties.

“It is not enough to talk about fairness and accountability in the abstract,” Professor Paterson said.

“We have a choice about the kinds of values we as a society hold to be important and worth protecting in the advance of technology. Social and economic policy, law reform and regulatory responses can only proceed in the light of clarity around those values and their application across Australian communities.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve already seen the extensive use of digital technologies to implement a variety of social control measures. The public health benefits of these measures are obvious, but so too are the threats to individual privacy and autonomy.”

CAIDE will also play a crucial role in educating University of Melbourne students across disciplines about the significance of putting ethics into every design of new technologies.

Co-director Associate Professor Tim Miller from Computing and Information Systems within Melbourne School of Engineering said the launch of CAIDE represents an opportunity for the University to demonstrate leadership in the rapidly changing world of technology and facilitate much-needed dialogue between government and the technology sector on complex issues facing society.

“The use of AI for complex decision making in the technology, business and medical sectors is increasing exponentially and our social understanding of it should keep pace,” Associate Professor Miller said.

“The present pandemic has increased public dependence on devices and the internet. During these times it is increasingly important for researchers to identify gaps in the technical and legal framework of our online existence.”

CAIDE will work with the government and key members of the technology sector to develop excellence in thought leadership through public engagement, innovative research projects and a network of national and international partners.

For more information visit CAIDE’s website.

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