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CIFAR announces winning AI & Society workshops

4 research teams selected with total funding of $270,000

CIFAR is pleased to announce the winners of its open, international AI & Society Call for Workshops competition. The four applicants that were selected, each eligible for between $50,000 and $80,000 in funding, will run workshops exploring economic, legal, ethical and social perspectives on AI.

“We were very happy to see the quality and breadth of proposed topics,” says Brent Barron, CIFAR’s Director of Public Policy. “These four proposals all address unique and timely questions. We’re excited to see what important insights come out of these workshops for policy-makers and the public.”

To support a global, interdisciplinary, and inclusive conversation on these issues, CIFAR issued an open call in early April for international research workshop proposals. Under the leadership of the proposal team, each funded workshop will bring together a diverse group of 20-25 experts to explore economic, legal, ethical, philosophical and social implications of AI. Following the workshops, each group will produce a non-technical, lay publication to inform and engage policymakers, NGOs and the broader public.

“AI promises to make fundamental changes to the way we work, live, learn and govern,” says Rebecca Finlay, Vice-President of Engagement & Public Policy. “Bringing together diverse perspectives from across disciplines, sectors and borders is essential to understanding the implications of these changes and, ultimately, to promoting the well-being of people and society.”

The four successful applications address the following topics:

Regulation of defense and security AI technologies: Options beyond traditional arms control

Debates about AI arms control have focused predominantly on autonomous weapons systems, been aimed principally to determine whether a total ban is appropriate, and taken place in the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, a traditional arms control setting. The workshops will bring together AI technologists, arms control practitioners and researchers, and other experts in regulatory and control regimes to develop a better understanding of arms control in the age of AI.

Proposal Team: Kerstin Vignard, UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), Switzerland; David Danks, Carnegie Mellon University, United States; Amb (ret.) Paul Meyer, Simon Fraser University, Canada

Generation AI: Reducing inequality and enhancing digital inclusion via smart design and developmental science

Though children comprise one-third of the world’s internet users, online algorithms have not been constructed to consider this especially vulnerable population, particularly those exposed to high levels of poverty and inequality. These workshops will bring together an interdisciplinary team from machine learning, pediatrics, psychology, and cultural anthropology as well as proposed collaborators in educational technology, communication sciences, and computational biology. They will focus on AI as a potential amplifier of inequality and inform a research, policy, and communication agenda that will bring these issues to the forefront of scientific, policy, legal, and public discussions.

Team: Candice Odgers, University of California Irvine, United States; Anna Goldenberg, University of Toronto, Canada; Ronald Dahl, University of California Berkeley, United States; Mizuko Ito, University of California Irvine, United States

Indigenous protocol and AI

How do we broaden discussions about the role of technology in society, and how can these conversations be informed by Indigenous knowledge and culture? These workshops will bring Indigenous ways of making and maintaining relationships with human and non-human kin to bear on the question of how to build ethical relationships with AI. Workshop participants will come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, including machine learning, design, symbolic systems, cognition and computation, visual/performing arts, philosophy, linguistics, anthropology, and sociology.

Team: Jason Edward Lewis, Concordia University, Canada; Angie Abdilla, Old Ways. New. Indigenous Knowledge Consulting, Australia; ʻŌiwi Parker Jones, Oxford University, United Kingdom; Fox Harrell, MIT, United States

AI-powered information ecosystems and democracy

The potential risks AI poses to democratic institutions are not well-understood, in part due to the tension between potential benefits and harms to society. This workshop will engage diverse groups of researchers from academia and industry with practitioners and civil society representatives, to encourage collaborations between those developing tools and those who with expertise in policy, civil rights, and democratic values.

Team: Derek A. S. Ruths, McGill University, Canada; Seda Guerses, University of Leuven, Belgium; Alexandra Olteanu, Microsoft Research, United States; Joris Hoboken, Vrije Universiteit Brussels and University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands


The AI & Society Workshops will begin rolling out in 2019. For more information, please contact Brent Barron at

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