Interdisciplinarity — Key to Responsible Innovation

The increasing reach and pervasiveness of AI and algorithms into everyday life raises pressing social and ethical issues for individuals and communities. Several recent deliberations, including track-and-trace for the pandemic and fight for a fairer society, have raised the urgency for critical thinking about our society and technology innovations now more than ever. Under these tremendous circumstances, we hear a great need from Oxford researchers and students for a platform to voice and exchange our concerns, and reflect and react to the urgent need for more inclusive and responsible algorithms and technologies.

The first virtual ReEnTrust Responsible Technology workshop was a direct response to this call for actions. Thanks to the support of OxAI, Oxford Business Network for Technology and the EPSRC ReEnTrust project, we welcomed 18 participants from 5 different Oxford faculties/departments, including Oxford CS, International Development, Law, Geography and particularly the Said Business School. 

The two-hour virtual workshop was opened by two informative presentations by Dr Philip Inglesant (Oxford CS) and Dr Ansgar Koene (EY/Nottingham University). The former laid down the foundation for our core interactive group break-out session by introducing the widely-adopted Responsible Innovation AREA framework, and the latter provided well-rounded insights about the motivations and challenges that the industry is facing for adopting the RI approach.

Led by Dr Menisha Patel (Oxford CS), we enjoyed a productive 45-minute virtual group breakout session to critique and reflect a case study related to racial biases in algorithms. Participants were encouraged to make use of the AREA RI framework to anticipate the benefits and implications of the algorithm, reflect thoughtfully the direct and indirect stakeholders that are affected by the algorithms and how they should have been engaged to ensure the fairness of the algorithm, and finally envision how a future algorithm and its development could be like. 

The final plenary discussions demonstrated participants’ shared concerns of various factors in relation to algorithm design and regulation: including the lack of engagement to those stakeholders that directly affected by these algorithms (such as judges and the arrested people), the need for independent review and monitoring of the use of the algorithm, and particularly the data used for training the algorithm. More fairness and transparency is strongly demanded, which should not only be strengthened by technical solutions but also a thorough and continuous review and monitor of the use and impact, and an establishment of a process for the adoption of such critical technologies in any public or private sectors. 

The key success of this workshop has not only been the insightful collective findings, but it has been extremely encouraging to see how our participants from diverse backgrounds were able to identify the broader set of issues and challenges associated with responsible innovation.

 

Just like how Dr Helena Webb (Oxford CS) concluded the workshop: “We have quite a diverse participants today, for sharing perspectives and coming up with important ideas… This diversity is an exact fit with the RI approach of anticipating, mitigating in advance, and by doing this, influencing the trajectory of innovation (in a positive way).

 

Indeed, the outcomes from the workshop could not have provided a better piece of evidence for the need of bringing people together, so that we could approach our responsibility to innovation and our society through a multiple and well-rounded perspective.

It has been a joy to welcome all the enthusiastic supporters and wonderful to share the inspiration for a better society supported by better innovations with a group of wonderful thinkers. We hope you have enjoyed a productive afternoon with us. For further information about RI, please do take a look at the following resources:

  • Orbit: https://www.orbit-rri.org
  • The UnBias project: https://unbias.wp.horizon.ac.uk
  • The ReEnTrust project: http://reentrust.org

All workshop materials can be found below:

Other course materials like workshop worksheets available upon request.

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