Shifting Power Group Organised Successful Workshop on Ecology of AI at HHAI 2023 Conference

Last week, the research group "Shifting Power" from the Knowledge Media Institute at the Open University visited the International Conference Series on Hybrid Human-Artificial Intelligence (HHAI) 2023, held from June 26th to 30th in Munich. Their organised workshop on the Ecology of AI (EcAI) 2023 garnered attention from conference participants and sparked insightful discussions among AI researchers from around the world.

The EcAI 2023 workshop aimed to broaden the perspectives of AI researchers and delve into the farther-reaching impacts  of their own work. Motivated by the acknowledgement that “ethical” or “responsible” AI and “AI for Social Good” are typically informed by Western European notions of morality, the workshop organisers hoped to highlight the much larger ecosystem involved in the implementation of AI and the world systems that it may influence.

Led by Dr. Retno Larasati, and assisted by Dr. Tracie Farrell and Dr. Venetia Brown, alongside colleagues Dr. Soraya Kouadri Mostefaoui and Dr. Syed Mustafa Ali from School of Computing and Communication, the group coordinated a reflection-focused workshop that facilitated discussions on the emerging questions surrounding AI’s impacts and the likelihood of those impacts given current socio-political and economic realities.

The keynote presenter, Dr. Mustafa Ali offered an insightful presentation on "The Political {Economy, Ecology, Theology} of AI, that touched on the assumption of inevitability of AI, its relationship to the legacy of colonialism, industrial power and Whiteness, and the importance of understanding resistance to this technology. The insightful talk enriched the discussions, shedding light on the intersection of AI impacts in various fields from different angles. The workshop attendees, both in person and virtually, comprising researchers from diverse backgrounds and nations, actively participated by presenting their own research and engaging in fruitful conversations. 

Dr. Tracie Farrell presented her talk on "Protected Characteristics and Abuse Detection," reflecting on the reliance on legal definitions of who is in need of protection and how this can  interfere with talking about community harm in meaningful ways. Dr. Retno Larasati shared her reflections on "AI in Healthcare – Reflection on Potential Harms and Impacts," highlighting the potential risks and benefits of AI implementation in the healthcare sector, especially AI healthcare as a billion dollar business and how its impacts racial industrial capitalism.

The discussions held during the EcAI workshop centred around timely and complex debates in how AI could (or is more likely to)  impact global power asymmetries or consolidate and strengthen existing harms, and the importance of having a more nuanced perspective on the proposed  benefits to society.  Participants explored the ethical considerations, societal implications, and ways to mitigate potential negative impacts, fostering an environment of collaboration and critical thinking. 

As the world navigates the rapidly evolving landscape of AI, initiatives like the EcAI workshop provide a crucial platform for researchers to broaden their perspectives and foster responsible AI development. The Shifting Power group’s contributions will undoubtedly contribute to the ongoing discourse and shape the future direction of AI research.