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Student group hosts Viennese delegation to discuss future of AI ethics

Claus Kramsl (left), a journalist, Gerhard Hirczi (center), the managing director of the Vienna Business Agency, and Ute Stadlbauer (right), a regional manager at the agency, were part of a delegation which discussed the ethics of artificial intelligence. (Daanish Bhatti/Daily Bruin)

By Bernard Mendez

Nov. 5, 2019 1:06 a.m.

Ethical questions about artificial intelligence brought together a student-run organization and an international delegation in a cross-cultural dialogue Monday.

UCLA’s AI Robotics Ethics Society hosted a delegation from Vienna, Austria, to discuss the ethics of AI, including the automation of jobs by AI machines, the use of AI in healthcare and the regulation of AI research.

AIRES, whose first chapter was established at UCLA last year, addresses the ethics of artificial intelligence. Since its inception, AIRES has grown to over 300 students and now also has chapters at the University of Southern California and Cornell University, said Aaron Hui, president of AIRES and a fourth-year computational and systems biology student.

“These students in the future will be the people who actually change the world,” said Victoria Liu, vice president of AIRES and a second-year psychobiology student. “We want to make sure that people who are involved in this field have some sort of ethical guideline.”

The Viennese delegation consisted of representatives from the city, journalists from Austrian news outlets and representatives from the Vienna Business Agency, an organization that offers funding and coaching for local startups.

Hui said there is currently very little transparency in the way AI works as there is no standard of ethics for AI use. He added it is important to determine regulations soon because it will be difficult to do so once AI becomes more commonplace.

“Once (AI) takes off on its course, it’s going to be almost impossible to shut down,” Hui said. “Once you let the cat out of the bag, it’s free.”

He added that he thinks AI developers should be trained to adhere to ethical values and should implement an algorithm so that AI software can explain its decisions in writing.

Gerhard Hirczi, the managing director of the Vienna Business Agency, said ethical values are important to the agency because they need to be aware of the consequences of funding AI-based technology startups.

He added the agency is hoping to combine ethical values with economic performance.

“(Ethics) are very important to the city of Vienna,” Hirczi said. “We got a lot of inspiration today.”

Hui, who was also one of the club’s co-founders, said he noticed there is little consideration of ethics by AI industry members and that students weren’t thinking about the ethical implications of the AI technologies they were creating.

He added the field of AI ethics is in its infancy and there is a lot of room for students to make an impact.

“It’s not like physics, where you’ve had people do it for thousands of years, or even like computer science, where people have done it for almost 100 years,” Hui said. “How often are you going to find a field that you can make an impact in?”

Hui added he will be teaching a course in the spring on AI ethics under the computer science department and hopes to convince the UCLA administration to implement AI ethics as a new major or minor within the computer science and philosophy departments.

“Right now, our mission is to make UCLA the premier institution for AI ethics,” Hui said.

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Bernard Mendez | News editor
Mendez is the 2020-2021 News editor. He was previously a staff news reporter for the Science & Health beat and a developer for The Stack. He is also a third-year math student at UCLA.
Mendez is the 2020-2021 News editor. He was previously a staff news reporter for the Science & Health beat and a developer for The Stack. He is also a third-year math student at UCLA.
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