News  |    |  January 24, 2020

The battle for ethical AI at the world’s biggest machine-learning conference

News article by Elizabeth Gibney.
Published in Nature.


Diversity and inclusion took centre stage at one of the world’s major artificial-intelligence (AI) conferences in 2018. But once a meeting with a controversial reputation, last month’s Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) conference in Vancouver, Canada, saw attention shift to another big issue in the field: ethics.

The focus comes as AI research increasingly deals with ethical controversies surrounding the application of its technologies — such as in predictive policing or facial recognition. Issues include tackling biases in algorithms that reflect existing patterns of discrimination in data, and avoiding affecting already vulnerable populations. “There is no such thing as a neutral tech platform,” warned Celeste Kidd, a developmental psychologist at University of California, Berkeley, during her NeurIPS keynote talk about how algorithms can influence human beliefs. At the meeting, which hosted a record 13,000 attendees, researchers grappled with how to meaningfully address the ethical and societal implications of their work. [ . . . ]