Paper Session 8: AI Past and Future

14:00
Exploring AI Futures Through Role Play

ABSTRACT. We present an innovative methodology for studying and teaching the impacts of AI through a role-play game. The game serves two primary purposes: 1) training AI developers and AI policy professionals to reflect on and prepare for future social and ethical challenges related to AI and 2) exploring possible futures involving AI technology development, deployment, social impacts, and governance. While the game currently focuses on the inter-relations between short-, mid- and long-term impacts of AI, it has potential to be adapted for a broad range of scenarios, exploring in greater depths issues of AI policy re-search and affording training within organizations. The game presented here has undergone two years of development and has been tested through over 30 events involving between 3 and 70 participants. The game is under active development, but preliminary findings suggest that role-play is a promising methodology for both exploring AI futures and training individuals and organizations in thinking about, and reflecting on, the impacts of AI and strategic mistakes that can be avoided today.

14:15
Technocultural Pluralism: A “Clash of Civilizations” in Technology?

ABSTRACT. At the end of the Cold War, the renowned political scientist, Samuel Huntington, argued that future conflicts were more likely to stem from cultural frictions — ideologies, social norms, and political systems — rather than political or economic frictions. Huntington focused his concern on the future of geopolitics in a rapidly shrinking world. This paper argues that a similar dynamic is at play in the interaction of technology cultures. We emphasize the role of culture in the evolution of technology and identify the particular role culture (esp. privacy culture) plays in the development of AI/ML technologies. Then we examine some implications that this perspective brings to the fore.

14:30
The Offense-Defense Balance of Scientific Knowledge: Does Publishing AI Research Reduce Misuse?

ABSTRACT. There is growing concern over the potential misuse of artificial intelligence (AI) research. Publishing scientific research can facilitate misuse of the technology, but the research can also contribute to protections against misuse. This paper addresses the balance between these two effects. Our theoretical framework elucidates the factors governing whether the published research will be more useful for attackers or defenders, such as the possibility for adequate defensive measures, or the independent discovery of the knowledge outside of the scientific community. The balance will vary across scientific fields. However, we show that the existing conversation within AI has imported concepts and conclusions from prior debates within computer security over the disclosure of software vulnerabilities. While disclosure of software vulnerabilities often favours defence, this cannot be assumed for AI research. The AI research community should consider concepts and policies from a broad set of adjacent fields, and ultimately needs to craft policy well-suited to its particular challenges.

14:45
Activism by the AI Community: Analysing Recent Achievements and Future Prospects

ABSTRACT. The artificial intelligence (AI) community has recently engaged in activism in relation to their employers, other members of the community, and their governments in order to shape the societal and ethical implications of AI. It has achieved some notable successes, but prospects for further political organising and activism are uncertain. We survey activism by the AI community over the last six years; apply two analytical frameworks drawing upon the literature on epistemic communities, and worker organising and bargaining; and explore what they imply for the future prospects of the AI community. Success thus far has hinged on a coherent shared culture, and high bargaining power due to the high demand for a limited supply of AI ‘talent’. Both are crucial to the future of AI activism and worthy of sustained attention.

15:00
The Problem with Intelligence: Its Value-Laden History and the Future of AI

ABSTRACT. This paper argues that the concept of intelligence is highly value-laden in ways that impact on the field of AI and debates about its risks and opportunities. This value-ladenness stems from the historical use of the concept of intelligence in the legitimation of dominance hierarchies. The paper first provides a brief overview of the history of this usage, looking at the role of intelligence in patriarchy, the logic of colonialism and scientific racism. It then highlights five ways in which this ideological legacy might be interacting with debates about AI and its risks and opportunities: 1) how some aspects of the AI debate perpetuate the fetishization of intelligence; 2) how the fetishization of intelligence impacts on diversity in the technology industry; 3) how certain hopes for AI perpetuate notions of technology and the mastery of nature; 4) how the association of intelligence with the professional class misdirects concerns about AI; and 5) how the equation of intelligence and dominance fosters fears of superintelligence. This paper therefore takes a first step in bringing together the literature on intelligence testing, eugenics and colonialism from a range of disciplines with that on the ethics and societal impact of AI.

15:15
Beyond near and long-term: towards a clearer account of research priorities in AI ethics and society

ABSTRACT. One way of carving up the broad `AI ethics and society’ research space that has emerged in recent years is to distinguish between ‘near-term’ and ‘long-term’ research. While such ways of breaking down the research space can be useful, we are concerned about the near/long-term distinction gaining too much prominence in how research questions and priorities are framed. We highlight some ambiguities and inconsistencies in how the distinction is used, and argue that while there are differing priorities within this broad research community, these differences are not well-captured by the near/long-term distinction. We unpack the near/long-term distinction into four different dimensions, and propose some ways that researchers can communicate more clearly about their work and priorities using these dimensions. We suggest that moving towards a more nuanced conversation about research priorities can help establish new opportunities for collaboration, aid the development of more consistent and coherent research agendas, and enable identification of previously neglected research areas.