'Artificial Intelligence: Friend or Foe?' Adapt AI Citizens' Think In - Science Week 2021 (part 1)
Hello and good evening everybody, and a very big welcome here to the Radisson Blu hotel in Athlone. And a special welcome to all those people who are joining us online and from our remote hubs in Cork and Dublin. And I'd like to extend a particularly warm welcome to Robert Troy, Minister of State for Trade Promotion Digital and Company Regulation at the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment and we are expecting the new president of TUS, Vincent Cunnane to be along later in the evening too and he will address the room and indeed our online audience for a couple of minutes We're here today to allow you to join the national conversation on Artificial Intelligence and its impact that it's going to have and indeed is having on all our lives and the big question we ask tonight is: 'Is AI a friend or a foe?'. When posting about the event and those of you that are online and doing so already and those who are here in person are in the hubs please use the hashtag #DiscussAI for any hashtags or any posting you're doing about this evening's event we try to get it trending because this is a part of a series of events that are coming up over the next few months as well. These events are run in conjunction with Creating Our Future, a new government-led initiative launched recently by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin and when it gets to thinking about you know data protection, GDPR , Artificial Intelligence. I'm
sure a lot of you listening a lot of you joined in and people in the room tonight are probably maybe somewhat snowed under by all this new terminology and wondering what impact it will have on our own lives. Well from a GDPR perspective I must say we're taking phone numbers for contact tracing of people in there in the hubs please note the day will be destroyed after 28 days in line with GDPR guidelines but in getting to the whole conversation and thinking about what AI is somebody came to my own mind recently and it was a clip of an interview with Arthur C. Clarke the science fiction writer, and the futurist. It was actually used at the very start of the 2015 biopic on Steve Jobs, and Clarke basically predicted that when speaking about the interviewer's son that if we wait until the year 2001, he will have in his own house at least a console. He said he was looking at the computers that were there in 1974 He said this will be small, it'll be concise and on that console he will be able to talk through his friendly local computer and get all the information he needs for everyday life: bank statements, theatre reservations. All the
information that in order to deal with and live in a complex modern society. So this is in 1974. Bear in mind when he was asked about the potential decline in social relations brought about by technology, Clarke responded: in many ways technology will enrich our societies it will make it possible for us to live anywhere, adding that any business person or executive could live almost anywhere on the planet and still deliver in their daily job or create or grow a business. Now if I personally think back to 2001 I was in my third year of an engineering degree and at that stage we were still submitting some of our projects handwritten We were starting to get used to autocad so if we just all stop and pause I think that I'm going to say is not that long ago and this the development and the scale of change that we've had to deal with since. There's no doubt times are changing rapidly and we now inhabit that connected world that Arthur C. Clarke spoke about back in 1974. I think the past 18 months have really highlighted that
the template of a nine to five five day working week has been completely ripped asunder as well. Because AI plays a major role in our lives already many of you are not aware that just how much of a role it actually plays. It has the power to change our lives for the greater good, more productive working environments affording us all more free time to do what we desire most and it can be used, it can be a game changer in terms of the fight against climate change, in how we educate people, how we care for the vulnerable people in our societies, and for members of our communities and how we integrate people more into our communities as well. So thank you all for contributing and giving your time this evening for this workshop.
Thanks Ronan, and so as Ronan mentioned I'm Laura Grehen I'm Education and Public Engagement or as we say EPE manager with ADAPT and I'm delighted to welcome you here this evening for Citizens' Think-In I thought I'd start by answering the question 'What is a Citizens' Think-In?' and probably many of you are sitting here - hopefully not our scribes and moderators - but some of you still wondering what have you actually signed up for this evening. Well, a Citizens' Think-In is essentially a discussion forum, hopefully fun one, in which used members of the public can engage in dialogue and discussion with leading AI researchers around the role of AI in our lives and in society more generally. If you're feeling apprehensive there's no need to be and you don't need any previous knowledge of AI in order to be able to participate fully and what's important to us is that you it's your views that will help us to understand better the benefits drawbacks opportunities and risks associated with emerging AI innovation. You'll also help us identify and prioritize future areas for research and when I say us I mean the ADAPT research centre and here in Athlone this evening also the advanced technologies and manufacturing or ATIM cluster and our industry partners IMR, Mersus and Sidero So, ADAPT just very briefly is the Science Foundation Ireland research center for AI driven digital content technology, a nice short memorable name. We're a university & industry
research centre with more than 300 researchers based across eight universities in Ireland and our research spans many disciplines including IT, ethics, psychology, healthcare and much more besides but our work focuses on the broad area of artificial intelligence or AI and this evening we've in-person Think-Ins in three of these universities Dublin City University, Munster Technological University in Cork and here we're broadcasting from the Technological University of the Shannon here in Athlone. We've also many people joining us online from other locations around Ireland this evening and it's important for us to highlight that the ADAPT research program is very much human-centric meaning it places the human at the heart of developments in AI and that that's really why we're here this evening The event forms part of ADAPT's wider #DiscussAI national conversation on AI and the government's wider Creating our Future national conversation on research. Our aims this evening are to help you learn about AI and the potential and current role that it plays in your life and in society And also to help you become more confident in evaluating the risks benefits opportunities and challenges presented by emerging science and technology. And also then importantly to have a voice on this vital area of research. Your participation will help us understand better public views on AI and to identify future research directions. We'll take notes on the conversation
as it goes along and this will be done anonymously so we really do encourage you to feel free to express your views openly and we'll share a short summary of the main discussion topics with you After the event, we'll also publish more in-depth analysis in a white paper on the Think-In series early next year and we then share that white paper and recommendations of relevant policy makers if you're attending a Think-In in person like our participants here in Athlone, you'll have an opportunity to submit research ideas and to back up the evening by filling out one of these Creating Our Future postcards that we'll have available during the break and some of them are on your tables here. And if you're participating in an online Think-In you can submit your ideas not just on AI but on any aspect of research to the creatingourfuture.ie website so finally what is our format for this evening well we're going to start with a short introduction to AI to get you up to speed on research in this area and some of the implications of AI for society this will be done by way of a short interview with Dr Niall Murray who's here with us from the ADAPT Centre at the Technological University of Shannon. We'll then break into small
groups and so here in Athlone you're already seated in your groups and you'll you'll discuss a scenario related to the role of AI devices in the home and implications for the privacy of the user. The facilitator at your table or online breakout room will summarise the discussion in your small group and the main points of your discussion with the other attendees at your venue We'll then have a Eurovision style report back if all goes well technically and so that we can see the similarities and differences in the opinions expressed across the different locations and finally then we'll open the floor to questions and answers we'll be aiming to wrap up by 8.15 and we'll have a short break at 20 to 8. but first before we get started i'm delighted now to introduce a special guest. Robert Troy TD is Minister of State with responsibility for trade promotion digital and company regulation at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment We're honored to have him here this evening to share with us the importance and relevance of the recently published national AI strategy AI here for good and so Minister Troy, welcome and over to you. Thank you very much Laura and good evening everybody to our guests that's
here this evening and our guests that's tuning in virtually. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to share with you and give a brief overview of the national AI strategy here for good which was published earlier on this year and can I thank the ATIM cluster for the invitation I was very pleased to learn that the ATIM cluster has been supported by my department through the regional technology a clustering fund. I believe this cluster is a positive force for collaboration and innovation and I commend you for the work that you're doing. I think this evening's event is timely as we look at how digital technologies like AI can be transformative for our economy and indeed for our society. It's also a great opportunity for us all to exchange views,
gain insights and explore new areas of collaboration as we start an intensive period to encourage the public enterprises and society to start their digital transformation journey For many the very idea of Artificial Intelligence is just science fiction but in reality it is very much part of our everyday like computing electricity and even the steam engine. AI is a general purpose technology which huge transformative potential in a wide variety of sectors and with implications for the whole of society In the wake of the COVID crisis and with signs of hope now on the horizon it's time to look forward to the opportunities presented by new technologies such as AI for building our economic and social recovery. AI and other digital technologies can help us in creating the economy and society we would like, greener, more productive, more competitive and more resilient. Given its wide application to all sectors and its high capacity for impact growth and contribution to improving competitiveness, AI is one of the technologies with the greatest potential for transformation in all areas of productive activity. Indeed we can already see many of its applications in our daily lives. It helps us book flights, order a taxi, look for directions on our phones. It notifies us if something strange is happening in our bank accounts to prevent fraud.
Of course economic development has always been driven by technology change and we can be certain that more change is ahead as we've entered an era of rapid technological advancement. But this just isn't about the economy. It's also about creating well-being and prosperity for our people. The power of AI innovation can help us overcome pressing social challenges and create new values and possibilities. As technology historian Melvin Kranzberg said "technology is neither good nor bad, neither is it neutral". It is essential that we have the right public policies in place to ensure the responsible and beneficial development and use of AI, maximizing its potential for public good and minimizing any potential negative impacts. The government
therefore developed the national AI strategy to provide a high level direction to the design development deployment and governance of AI in Ireland the title of the strategy AI here for good reflects our ambition to harness AI as a positive force for transformation the strategy serves as a roadmap to how Ireland can leverage the potential of AI for unlocking productivity, for addressing societal challenges, and for delivering public services Our vision is that Ireland will be an international leader in using AI to the benefit of our population to a people-centered ethical approach to AI development, adoption and use Abraham Lincoln once said that the most reliable way to predict the future is to create it Our national AI strategy is about creating the future we want and underpinning that strategy are three core principles to best embrace the opportunities of AI. One: adopting a human-centric approach in the application of AI. Two: staying open and adaptable to new innovations and three: ensuring good governance to build trust and confidence so innovation can flourish This is because ultimately if AI is truly to be inclusive and have a positive impact on all of us we need to be clear on its role in our society and ensuring that trust is the ultimate marker of success. With these guiding principles it is our ambition to put Ireland at the frontier of a people-centered ethical and responsible roll out of AI. This will further enhance Ireland's reputation as a place where it pays to invest in innovation. The
work of research centres such as ADAPT are clear examples of this and along with collaboration with industry and private and public sectors, we can continue to forge ahead as a leading AI nation In terms of a very brief overview of the strategy it has been structured along three broad categories building public trust, leveraging AI for economic and societal benefit, and enablers for AI. Under each of these categories are eight strands covering areas such as AI and society, education and skills, supporting a strong ecosystem, and promoting trustworthy AI I won't go into detail in each specific strand but as Minister of State in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, there is a strong enterprise focus reflecting also the potential of AI to economic recovery. It is estimated that the application of AI could double economic growth by 2035 and I believe that we must be ready to take advantage of the opportunities of AI to drive resilience and economic recovery as seen by the increased uptake of digital solutions particularly in the last 20 months. But any powerful set of technologies also provokes important questions about its uses and impact on the labor market. Certain job roles will be disrupted, not only by AI, but by broader digital transformation much of this disruption will be in the stream streamlining routine tasks such as in accountancy by reviewing large swathes of data. Or in the legal area, reviewing large volumes of
legal texts and contracts. It can augment and enable the work we do freeing up time and creating new job opportunities that require the skills and willingness to work alongside AI based systems That is why this strategy prioritizes people-centered policies That means giving workers the opportunities to upskill, retrain and adapt to change. To boost the uptake of digital technologies, including AI, we have set up the digital transition fund This is an 85 million euro multi-annual fund that will run until 2026 as part of Ireland's national recovery and resilience plan. While government will play a key role in facilitating and enabling AI for good, it is imperative that this is a journey involving all of society Government will continue to engage with stakeholders to ensure policies are responsive to the change in technology environment, but there is a role for everyone to understand the potential and the challenges AI and other disruptive technologies present Events such as the one here this evening are an important fora to discuss how we can get a balance between how disruptive technologies can enable our future societies to embrace the opportunities and at the same time overcome the challenges. Because the benefits of AI are far-reaching AI can help Ireland to address challenges in areas such as climate action, public health, education, housing, and urban development amongst many others. The strategy is an important step in Ireland's journey towards becoming a leading international hub for responsible and ethical AI, but it is only the beginning. Having events like this evenings are important
to address some of the concerns that people may have around AI and other technologies The more that people understand and trust the potential of AI, the more people will embrace it The government recognises the need to have meaningful engagement with the public on the development governance and use of AI. AI must be developed and used with trust, transparency, and accountability. By making human rights and ethical principles a key focus of our strategy, Ireland is making a commitment to ensuring that AI-based systems and solutions developed and used in this state are trustworthy, fair and inclusive.
The government will soon appoint an AI ambassador to promote awareness among the people, both public and businesses, of the potential AI offers, serving as a champion of AI, as a positive force for the economy and society and emphasizing an ethical approach. And it's not too late to apply We're seeking expressions of interest with the closing date tomorrow so if there's anyone in this room or indeed if anyone tuned in virtually would like to become the next national AI ambassador go home, log on to my website tonight, that's the department's website and submit your application for consideration before tomorrow evening. Also to inform the work of the ai ambassador my department will shortly begin a discussion with young people on young people's attitudes and concerns about and divisions for an AI-powered future using Comhairle na nÓg, the national structure for consultation with young people. I think it's very important that their views are heard also. So to conclude, we're all aware of the potential technologies such as AI present, but we all have a role to play in its deployment and it's use to better society. I want to wish you very well in your discussions this evening to thank you again to the ATIM cluster for organizing the event and for the invitation to share with you a brief overview of the national strategy and to apologize that I cannot stay long at the event due to a prior commitment but i do wish you well and I look forward to engaging with you in the weeks and months ahead. So now I suppose you know Minister Troy touched upon it there about AI. He mentioned words like
science fiction, yet the case study we're going to look at this evening is really back to an everyday very simple use, so maybe bridging the gap from AI down to the everyday use. Can you just even give an overview what is Artificial Intelligence? Thanks very much I'm delighted to be here to talk to you all this evening. AI is a term that has a number of different meanings and it's a highly interdisciplinary field of computer science research now and essentially what we're trying to do with AI algorithms is simulate intelligent human processes. These are things like creativity, things like logic, things like reasoning you know all the things that we do as humans as part of our everyday tasks. We're trying to build systems that represent this and you know people associate AI a lot with robotics and automation, but it's in so many of our systems nowadays. It's on our phones, it's on our Netflix accounts and the recommendations that's made for this.
Siri, Alexa all these systems are underpinned by AI technology. So it's essentially it's there already and maybe are people somewhat unaware of what it's actually doing at present and how much of a role it's playing in our everyday lives? I would imagine they're completely unaware and when it's done well, this is the way it should. The proactive agency of the algorithms, we should be unaware, but we shouldn't not be in control right. So it's ubiquitous It's in our cars and this will only emerge further and further in in the next couple of years. As Minister Troy touched upon there earlier, he mentions words like trust as well in AI which obviously is hugely important. Tell us a little bit more about ADAPT in terms of what
it does and the AI research it undertakes. Yes, so Laura introduced earlier on that ADAPT is a virtual research centre funded by the Science Foundation Ireland that comprises eight universities across the whole country and it has kind of defined three research strands and related to, at the intersection of AI and media They're on Digital Content Transformation, Digitally Enhanced Engagement and Digital Content Governance. The first, Digital Content Transformation is around analysis of content, generation of content, understanding of content all automatically The second strand Digital Enhanced Engagement is around how AI interacts with us as users, how it can proactively empower us, how we can augment our function and that's actually the focus we have in Athlone. And the last which is quite unique from a computer science perspective
in a research centre, ADAPT has Digital Content Governance. This is your ethics, your trust and it's a really interdisciplinary group and one of the kind of unique things about the ADAPT centre is that each of those different strands are interconnected. It is a human centered research centre. The human-centred approach is underpinned within the algorithmic which is the digital content transformation, and also within how we empower users. The human stakeholders is key
The role that your team are playing in that overall Artificial Intelligence ecosystem. If you can you pinpoint it for particularly members of the public who are here this evening, what role are you playing in the overall scheme of things? In Athlone, we we work on um at the intersection of extended reality technologies and AI. Extended reality is another word that we might not be so familiar with right, but myself and Ronan are here. This is a real world real world interaction right, and we have a number of different partners joining us here from Dublin, Cork. What they're doing at the moment is they're consuming digital content through whatever platform it is, probably zoom or something like this. But they're still consuming content in the real world.
So we're at the real world, but we have some digital content things like augmented reality. This is if i was looking at this object over here through my phone within the the view of the camera, my view might be overlaid with context-based information. That gives me extra information on this particular object. This is augmented reality. I'm still in the real world. Virtual reality is the far end of the spectrum where everything I consume is digital so I have no visibility of what's going on in the real world. I have the head mounted display on. I consume the audio which is also digital so I have no awareness of the real world. What we do in Athlone is, in the context of those kind of applications, capture lots of data on users as they're consuming content to understand their user perceptual quality. What factors make this experience enjoyable?
Some people are joining tonight on their phones, some have very advanced screens like we have here. They're all different types of factors that affect how we rate quality of that experience and that's where we operate, at the nexus of data collection in extended reality. When you mention things like data collection then, it's probably a thing that people are becoming more and more aware of. You said data collection there in relation to users Again, there's a question out there about how much do people realize how much information are they giving away, or what's the trade-off for using the various apps, or the technologies that we use, but do you think that that conflict that's there between privacy and ease of use will change over time? Will people become more knowledgeable about data and the use of same? When we're talking about data and when we're consuming content you know if you can imagine I'm wearing a head mounted display here, the kinds of data you can capture on the user are, if you think about it it's actually like a sensor on your on your head We all think about these devices as presentation devices but if you flip it, it actually is a sensor so you can capture eye information, head movement, regions of interest, interaction metrics like we see on the different demos here, so there's lots of different multi-modal data we can capture right. Even on our phones there's huge amount of information
we're giving to the different apps that allow us to personalize these experiences. Now what's happened over a number of years Ronan is that we've been doing this without even thinking about it. This is the reality. I do it myself Generations have grown up doing this without being aware of it, and in more recent years there's been kind of a growing importance on well we need to be in control of this more and this is kind of one of the key remits of the ADAPT centre that we get control back and we control the amount of data As a result then we get better trust and better privacy. Very briefly Niall, given your research
to date what areas of AI do you see as potentially having the most impact in our in our future lives? Well, that's a really broad question and what I'll do is I'll just speak about from our point of view, in our group. Our motivation is that we develop systems that are truly personalized systems so this means that we sense the minimum amount of data to understand the user, with AI, and then we use AI to select the assets or the content to present to the user so that truly personalized experiences are realized and if you can think about the applications or the benefits of this if I'm a student, the learning experience is truly personalized to me so if I have a difficulty in mathematics or sciences or whatever, we can tailor the rate of difficulty as it is as it's developed. Similarly in health you can tailor the programs, not with human input, but based on the data so this is where I think from our point of view that's our kind of holy grail of research and our strategy in the next few years. We're going to switch over,
or go very shortly to our hub hosts as well to really you know to get you all working to get you to do what you're here for this evening. Briefly Niall, how important is it to have members of the public and the citizens here to engage in this this evening? It's absolutely essential. We talked about ADAPT as a human-centered research group and it is because it is constantly soliciting input from the key stakeholders. If you think about the different contexts it's the public who are the experts in the different contexts whether that's in manufacturing or whether it's health or whether it's you know legal or whether it's fintech. We're computer scientists. We're not experts in those domains. They bring the expertise and then the general public who are not industry specific, they're the key stakeholders who tell us what they are prepared to accept from these kind of technologies and I think that's essential It's absolutely essential. I think that's going to fit nicely into the case study that the groups
are going to look at. So without further ado, it's time to get down to some work and we're going to now pass you over to your relevant hub hosts they will take you through the objectives for this evening and they will all join back again around 7.20 and I'm looking forward to hearing the feedback and see what comes out of each discussion hub so we'll talk to you all then. Thank you.