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Artificial Intelligence used to be little more than sci-fi movie fodder. While the tear-wrenching travails of Haley Joel Osment’s portrayal of an android longing for a mother earned some sympathy, the murderous, red-eyed antagonists of the Matrix and Terminator series have arguably made a more lasting impression on human audiences. Recently, though, AI has moved out of the realm of science fiction and into that of current events. SFIS HSD candidate Miles Brundage asks, “Why now?” It is a prescient question, especially considering the recent admonishments of notables like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, who warn AI could represent an existential threat to humanity.
Brundage’s research in AI and responsible innovation considers the recent increase in discussion of and studies into the ethical, societal, and economic implications of artificial intelligence from a sociological perspective. He explores how prior and ongoing ethical discussions related to other scientific and technological domains compare to those surrounding AI developments like lethal autonomous weapons and “superintelligent” systems that surpass human brainpower. “Are participants in these debates considering a sufficiently broad range of issues/risks?” he asks, “and are they involving a sufficiently wide range of stakeholders?”
To be one of those stakeholders is a goal for Brundage. Beyond simply being a consumer or affected by new technology, he actually wants to apply some of his ideas “to shape AI in a socially beneficial direction through informing government policies.” To that end, he is driven to engage with the nascent AI community in his work at every opportunity. He presented at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference the past two years and, this year, at the AAAI ethics workshop, where he spoke about how we can anticipate plausible futures of AI in order to govern it more appropriately and proactively.
“SFIS is a great place to do work on these sorts of issues,” Brundage praises. “At SFIS, there are many more scholars working on a wide range of issues, united by a common interest in ensuring a positive future.,” Brundage insists. His own ideas have been enriched by SFIS director Dave Guston’s experience and expertise in nanotechnology, HSD candidate Erik Fisher’s ideas related to Socio-Technical Integration Research (STIR), and CSPO director Clark Miller’s work on energy governance. “I always learn a lot from the excellent guest speakers we bring in, as well,” said Brundage. “There are always opportunities for collaboration and feedback.”