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Canada, France and the UK join forces to examine the social and ethical dimensions of artificial intelligence

International workshops to examine how the AI revolution will change society

Research institutions in Canada, France and the UK today announced they are issuing a call for proposals for a series of international AI & Society workshops. The workshops will bring together interdisciplinary and international groups of experts, and will be administered jointly by Canada’s CIFAR, France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Together, the three countries will provide funding and support for a series of teams appointed to explore the ethical, social, legal and economic impacts of AI research. Up to nine workshops will take place in 2019.

This announcement follows one made on June 7, ahead of the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Quebec. At that meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron made a historic joint commitment to study the ethical ramifications of AI from an international perspective.

The UK government signalled its commitment to ensuring that AI developments are conducted to the highest ethical standards in the announcement of an AI Sector Deal in April, which included the establishment of a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. The AI Sector Deal is a £1 billion deal building on the government’s Industrial Strategy to bring together public and private investment into AI research and innovation.

To be held in all three participating nations, the workshops will foster unique collaborations among experts in the social sciences, humanities, law, engineering, computer science and the arts.

CIFAR will manage the call, assess the proposals and convene the workshops. The Canada-based global research institute heads the $125 million Government of Canada Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. Funding for this program is supported by the Strategy.

“The development of AI is having impact on every aspect of our lives. AI is able to perform tasks of increasing complexity,” says CIFAR President & CEO Alan Bernstein. “These technologies are playing a central role in our lives. They have changed the way we communicate, navigate the world and manage our health. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a sector of society that will not be affected by AI. While AI has the potential to transform society for the better, this new technology does raise important challenges and concerns that need to be addressed.”

While AI holds great promise, it also raises ethical concerns and the likelihood of social change. “It is essential that all such potential implications be thoroughly researched and understood by policy-makers, scientists, business and civil society,” says Antoine Petit, Chairman & CEO of the CNRS.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UKRI, said, “The profound impact of Artificial Intelligence means that it is essential that research and development in this field is held to high ethical standards. International initiatives such as the workshops announced today are of vital importance in ensuring that AI benefits everyone in society.”

Proposal applications are due on October 15, 2018.

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CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec as well as foundations, individuals, corporations, and international partner organizations.

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