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Pondering AI

Author: Kimberly Nevala, Strategic Advisor - SAS

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How is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) shaping our human experience?

Kimberly Nevala ponders the reality of AI with a diverse group of innovators, advocates and data scientists. Ethics and uncertainty. Automation and art. Work, politics and culture. In real life and online. Contemplate AI’s impact, for better and worse.

All presentations represent the opinions of the presenter and do not represent the position or the opinion of SAS.
24 Episodes
Dr. Mark Coeckelbergh is a Professor of Philosophy of Media and Technology, a member of the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence (EC) and the Austrian Council on Robotics and AI.In this insightful discussion, Mark explains why AI systems are not merely tools or strictly rational endeavors. He describes the challenges created when AI systems imitate human capabilities and how human sciences help address the messy realities of AI. Mark also demonstrates how political philosophy makes conversations about multidimensional topics such as bias, fairness and freedom more productive. Kimberly and Mark discuss the difficulty with global governance, the role of scientific expertise and technology in society, and the need for political imagination to govern emerging technologies such as AI. Along the way, Mark illustrates the debate about how AI systems could vs. should be used through the lens of gun control and climate change. Finally, Mark sounds a cautionary note about the potential for AI to undermine our fragile democratic institutions.A transcript of this episode can be found here. 
Patrick Hall is the Principal Scientist at artfully illustrates how data science has become divorced from scientific rigor. At least, that is, in popular conceptions of the practice. Kimberly and Patrick discuss the pernicious influence of the McNamara Fallacy, applying the scientific method to algorithmic development and keeping an open mind without sacrificing concept validity. Patrick addresses the recent hubbub around AI sentience, cautions against using AI in social contexts and identifies the problems AI algorithms are best suited to solve. Noting AI is no different than any other mission-critical software, he outlines the investment and oversight required for AI programs to deliver value. Patrick promotes managing AI systems like products and makes the case for why performance in the lab should not be the first priority.A transcript of this episode can be found here. 
Fernando Lucini is the Global Data Science & ML Engineering Lead (aka Chief Data Scientist) at Accenture.Fernando Lucini outlines common uses for AI generated synthetic data. He emphasizes that synthetic data is a facsimile – close, but not quite real - and debunks the notion it is inherently private. Kimberly and Fernando discuss the potential pitfalls in synthetic data sets, the emergent need for standard controls, and why ensuring quality - much less fairness - is not simple. Fernando assesses the current state of the synthetic data market and the work still to be done to enable broad-scale adoption. Tipping his hat to fabulous achievements such as GPT-3 and Dall-E, Fernando identifies multiple ways synthetic data can be used for good works and creative endeavors.A transcript of this episode can be found here. 
Roger Spitz is the CEO of Techistential and Chairman of the Disruptive Futures Institute.In this thought-provoking discussion, Roger discusses why neither humans nor AI systems are great at decision making in complex environments. But why humans should be. Roger unveils the insidious influence of AI systems on human decisions and why uncertainty is a pre-requisite for human choice, freedom, and agency. Kimberly and Roger discuss the implications of complexity, the rising cost of poor assumptions, and the dangerous allure of delegating too many decisions to AI-enabled machines. Outlining the AAA (antifragile, anticipatory, agile) model for decision-making in the face of deep uncertainty, Roger differentiates foresight from strategic planning and anticipatory agility from ‘move fast and break things.’ Last but not least, Roger argues that current educational incentives run counter to nurturing the mindset and skills needed to thrive in our increasingly complex, emergent world.A transcript of this episode can be found here. 
Dr. Dorothea Baur is an ethicist and independent consultant on the topics of ethics, responsibility and sustainability in tech and finance.Dorothea debunks common ethical misconceptions and explores the novel issues that arise when applying ethics to technology. Kimberly and Dorothea discuss the risks posed by risk management-based approaches to tech ethics. As well as the “unholy collision” between the pursuit of scale and universal generalization. Dorothea reluctantly gives a nod to Milton Friedman when linking ethics to material business outcomes. Along the way, Dorothea illustrates how stakeholder engagement is evolving and the power of the employee. Noting that algorithms do not have agency and will never be ethical, Dorothea persuasively articulates our moral responsibility to retain responsibility for our AI creations.A transcript of this episode can be found here. 
Marisa Tschopp is a Human-AI interaction researcher at scip AG and Co-Chair of the IEEE Agency and Trust in AI Systems Committee.Marisa answers the question ‘what is trust?' and compares trust between humans to trust in a machine. Differentiating trust from trustworthiness, Marisa emphasizes the importance of considering the context and motivation behind AI systems. Kimberly and Marisa discuss the pros and cons of endowing AI systems with human characteristics (aka anthropomorphizing) and why ‘do you trust AI?’ is the wrong question. Debunking the concept of ‘The AI’, Marisa outlines practices for calibrating trust in AI systems. A self-described skeptical optimist, Marisa also shares her research into how people perceive their relationships with AI-enabled machines and how these patterns may change over time.A transcript of this episode can be found here.
Dr Erica Thompson is a Senior Policy Fellow in Ethics of Modelling and Simulation at the LSE Data Science Institute.Using the trusty-ish weather forecast as a starting point, Erica highlights the gaps to be minded when applying models in real-life. Kimberly and Erica discuss the role of expert judgement and intuition, the orthodoxy of data-driven cultures, models as engines not cameras, and why exposing uncertainty improves decision-making. Erica illustrates why it is so easy to become overconfident in models. She shows how value judgements are embedded in every step of model development (and hidden in math), why chameleons and accountability don’t mix, and considerations for using model outputs to think or decide effectively. Looking forward, Erica foresees a future in which values rather than data drive decision-making.A transcript of this episode can be found here. 
Sheryl Cababa is the Chief Design Officer at Substantial where she conducts research, develops design strategies and advocates for human-centric outcomes.From the infinite scroll to Twitter edits, Sheryl illustrates how current design practices unwittingly undermine human agency. Often while delivering exactly what a user wants. She refutes the need to categorically eliminate the term ‘users’ while showing how a singular user focus has led us astray. Sheryl then outlines how systems thinking can reorient existing design practices toward human-centric outcomes. Along the way, Kimberly and Sheryl discuss the limits of empathy, the evolving ethos of unintended consequences and embracing nuance. While acknowledging the challenges ahead, Sheryl remains optimistic about our ability to design for human well-being not just expediency or profit.A transcript of this episode can be found here. Our next episode explores the limits of model land with Dr Erica Thompson. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it.
Kate O’Neill is an executive strategist, the Founder and CEO of KO Insights, and author dedicated to improving the human experience at scale.  In this paradigm-shifting discussion, Kate traces her roots from a childhood thinking heady thoughts about language and meaning to her current mission as ‘The Tech Humanist’. Following this thread, Kate illustrates why meaning is the core of what makes us human. She urges us to champion meaningful innovation and reject the notion that we are victims of a predetermined future.Challenging simplistic analysis, Kate advocates for applying multiple lenses to every situation: the individual and the collective, uses and abuses, insight and foresight, wild success and abject failure. Kimberly and Kate acknowledge but emphatically disavow current norms that reject nuanced discourse or conflate it with ‘both-side-ism’. Emphasizing that everything is connected, Kate shows how to close the gap between human-centricity and business goals. She provides a concrete example of how innovation and impact depend on identifying what is going to matter, not just what matters now. Ending on a strategically optimistic note, Kate urges us to anchor on human values and relationships, habituate to change and actively architect our best human experience – now and in the future.A transcript of this episode can be found here.Thank you for joining us for Season 2 of Pondering AI. Join us next season as we ponder the ways in which AI continues to elevate and challenge our humanity. Subscribe to Pondering AI now so you don’t miss it.
Giselle Mota is a Principal Consultant for the Future of Work at ADP where she advices organizations on human agency, diversity and learning in the age of AI.  In this energetic discussion, Giselle shares how navigating dyslexia spawned a passion for technology and enabling learning at work. Giselle stresses that human agency and automation are only mutually exclusive when AI is employed with the wrong end in mind. Prioritizing human experience over ‘doing more with less’ Giselle explores the impact – good and bad - of AI systems on humans at work today.While ruminating on the future happening now, Giselle puts the onus on organizations to ensure no employee is left behind. From the warehouse floor to HR, the importance of diverse perspectives, rigorous due diligence and critical thinking when deploying AI systems is underscored. Along the way, Kimberly and Giselle dissect what AI algorithms can and cannot reasonably predict. Giselle then defines the leadership mindsets and talent needed to bring AI to work appropriately. With infectious optimism, she imposes a reality check on our innate desire to “just do cool things”. Finally, in a rousing call to action, Giselle makes a robust argument for robust accountability and making ethics endemic to every human endeavor, including AI.A transcript of this episode can be found here.Our final episode of Season 2 features Kate O’Neill. A tech humanist and author of ‘A Future so Bright’ Kate will discuss how we can architect the future of AI with strategic optimism. Subscribe to Pondering AI now so you don’t miss it.  
Baroness Beeban Kidron is an award-willing filmmaker, a Crossbench Peer in the UK House of Lords and the Founder and Chair of the 5Rights Foundation.In this eye-opening discussion, Beeban vividly describes how the seed for 5Rights was planted while getting up close and personal with teenagers navigating the physical and digital realms ‘In Real Life’. Beeban sounds a resounding alarm about why treating all humans as equal on the internet is regressive. As well as how existing business models have created a perfect societal storm, especially for children.Intertwining the voices of these underserved and underrepresented stakeholders with some shocking facts, Beeban illustrates the true impact of the current digital experiment on young people. In that vein, Kimberly and Beeban examine behaviors we implicitly condone and, in fact, promote in the digital realm that would never pass muster in so-called real life. Speaking to the brilliantly terrifying Twisted Toys campaign, Beeban shows how storytelling can make these critical yet oft sensitive topics accessible. Finally, Beeban speaks about critical breakthroughs such as the Age-Appropriate Design Code, positive action being taken by digital platforms in response and the long road still ahead.A transcript of this episode can be found here.Our next episode features Giselle Mota. Giselle is a Principle Consultant for the Future of Work at ADP where she advices organizations on human agency, diversity and learning in the age of AI. Subscribe to Pondering AI now so you don’t miss it.
Vincent de Montalivet is the Global AI Sustainability Leader at Capgemini where he develops strategies to use AI to combat climate change and drive corporate net-zero initiatives.In this forthright discussion, Vincent charts his path from supply chain engineering to his current position at the crossroads of data, IT and sustainability. Vincent stresses this is the ‘decade of action’ and  highlights cutting edge AI applications enabling the turn from simulation to accountability in real-time. Addressing fears about AI, Vincent shows how it enables rather than replaces human expertise.In that vein, Kimberly and Vincent have a frank discussion about whether AI for environmental good balances AI’s own appetite for energy. Vincent examines different aspects of the argument and shares recent research, facts and figures to shed light on the debate. He describes why AI is not a silver bullet, why AI is not always required and emerging research into making AI itself green. Vincent then provides a 3-step roadmap for corporate sustainability initiatives. Discussing emerging innovations, Vincent pragmatically points out that we are only addressing 3% of the green use cases that can be addressed with AI today. He rightfully suggests focusing there.A transcript of this episode can be found here.Our next episode features Baroness Beeban Kidron. She is the Founder and Chair of the 5Rights Foundation which is leading the fight to protect children’s rights and well-being in the digital realm. Subscribe to Pondering AI now so you don’t miss it. 
David Ryan Polgar is the Founder of All Tech is Human. He is a leading tech ethicist, an advocate for human-centric technology, and advisor on improving social media and crafting a better digital future. In this timely discussion, David traces his not-so-unlikely path from practicing law to being a standard bearer for the responsible technology movement. He artfully illustrates the many ways technology is altering the human experience and makes the case for “no application without representation”.   Arguing that many of AI’s misguided foibles stem from a lack of imagination, David shows how all paths to responsible AI start with diversity. Kimberly and David debunk the myth of the ethical superhero but agree there may be a need for ethical unicorns. David expounds on the need for expansive education, why non-traditional career paths will become traditional and the benefits of thinking differently. Acknowledging the complex, nuanced problems ahead, David advocates for space to air constructive, critical, and, yes, contrarian points of view. While disavowing 80s sitcoms, David celebrates youth intuition, bemoans the blame game, prioritizes progress over problem statements, and leans into our inevitable mistakes. Finally, David invokes a future in which responsible tech is so in vogue it becomes altogether unremarkable. A transcript of this episode can be found here. Our next episode features Vincent de Montalivet, leader of Capgemini’s global AI Sustainability program. Vincent will help us explore the yin and yang of AI’s relationship with the environment. Subscribe now to Pondering AI so you don’t miss it.  
Dr. Valérie Morignat PhD is the CEO of Intelligent Story and a leading advisor on the creative economy. She is a true polymath working at the intersection of art, culture, and technology.In this perceptive discussion, Valérie illustrates how cultural legacies inform technology and innovation today. Tracing a path from storytelling in caves to modern Sci-Fi she proves that everything new takes (a lot of) time. Far from theoretical, Valérie shows how this philosophical understanding helps business innovators navigate the current AI landscape.Discussing the evolution of VR/AR, Valérie highlights the existential quandary created by our increasingly fragmented digital identities. Kimberly and Valérie discuss the pillars of responsible innovation and the amplification challenges AI creates. Valérie shares the power of AI to teach us about ourselves and increase human learning, creativity, and autonomy. Assuming, of course, we don’t encode ancient, spurious classification schemes or aggravate negative behaviors. She also describes our quest for authenticity and flipping the script to search for the real in the virtual.Finally, Valérie sketches a roadmap for success including executive education and incremental adoption to create trust and change our embedded mental models.A transcript of this episode can be found here.Our next episode features David Ryan Polgar, founder of All Tech is Human. David is a leading tech ethicist and responsible technology advocate who is well-known for his work on improving social media.  Subscribe now so you don’t miss it. 
Yonah Welker is a technology innovator, influencer, and advocate for diversity and zero exclusion in AI. They are at the forefront of policies and applications for adaptive, assistive, and social AI.  In this illuminating discussion, Yonah traces their personal journey from isolation to advocacy through technology. They are passionate about the future of AI-enabled education, healthcare, and civics. Yet caution that our current approach to inclusion is not, in fact, inclusive. While evaluating mechanisms for accountability, Yonah shares lessons learned from the European Commission’s diverse approach to technology evaluation.   Yonah has an expansive view of how AI can “change everything” for those who experience life differently – whether they are autistic, neurodiverse, disabled or dyslexic. Kimberly and Yonah discuss how AI is expanding the borders of the classroom and workplace today. And how these solutions can inadvertently reinforce existing barriers if not mindfully applied. This leads naturally to the need for broad community collaboration and human involvement beyond traditional corporate boundaries. Yonah highlights our responsibilities as digital citizens and the critical debate over digital ownership. Finally, Yonah emphasizes that we are all, at our core, activists who can influence the trajectory of AI.  A transcript of this episode can be found here. Our next episode features Dr. Valérie Morignat PhD. Valerie is the CEO of Intelligent Story and a leading advisor on the creative economy who works at the intersection of art and AI. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it. 
Dr. Eric Perakslis, PhD is the Chief Science and Digital Officer at the Duke Clinical Research Institute.  In this incisive discussion, Eric exposes the curious nature of healthcare data. He proposes treating data like a digital specimen: one that requires clear consent and protection against misuse. Expanding our view beyond the doctor’s office, Eric shows why adverse effects from data misuse can be much harder to cure than a rash. As well as our innate human tendency to focus on technology’s potential while overlooking patient vulnerabilities. While discussing current data protections, Eric lays the foundation for a shift from privacy toward non-discrimination. Along the way, Kimberly and Eric discuss the many ways anonymous data can compromise patient privacy and the research it underpins. In doing so, a critical loophole in existing institutional review boards (IRB) and regulatory safeguards is exposed. An avid data advocate, Eric adroitly argues that proper patient and data protection will accelerate innovation and life-saving research. Finally, Eric makes a case for doing the hard things first and why the greatest research opportunities are rooted in equity.  A transcript of this episode can be found here. Our next episode features Yonah Welker. They are a ‘tech explorer’ and leading voice regarding the need for diversity and zero exclusion in AI as well as the role of social AI. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it.  
Dr. Ansgar Koene is the Global AI Ethics and Regulatory Leader at Ernst & Young (EY), a Sr. Research Fellow at the University of Nottingham and chair of the IEEE P7003 Standard for Algorithm Bias Considerations working group.  In this visionary discussion, Ansgar traces his path from robotics and computational social science to the ethics of data sharing and AI. Drawing from his wide-ranging research, Ansgar illustrates the need for true stakeholder representation; what diversity looks like in practice; and why context, critical thinking and common sense are required in AI. Describing some of the more subtle yet most impactful dilemmas in AI, Ansgar highlights the natural tension between developing foresight to avoid harms whilst reacting to harms that have already occurred. Ansgar and Kimberly discuss emerging regulations and the link between power and accountability in AI. Ansgar advocates for broad AI literacy but cautions against setting citizens and users up with unrealistic expectations. Lastly, Ansgar muses about the future and why the biggest challenges created by AI might not be obvious today. A full transcript of this episode can be found here.Thank you for joining us for Season 1 of Pondering AI. Join us next season as we ponder the ways in which AI continues to elevate and challenge our humanity. Subscribe to Pondering AI now so you don’t miss it.  
Lama Nachman is an Intel fellow and the director of Intel’s Human & AI Systems Research Lab. She also led Intel’s Responsible AI program. Lama’s team researches how AI can be applied to deliver contextually appropriate experiences that increase accessibility and amplify human potential.  In this inspirational discussion, Lama exposes the need for equity in AI, demonstrates the difficulty in empowering authentic human interaction, and why ‘Wizard of Oz’ approaches as well as a willingness to go back to the drawing board are critical. Through the lens of her work in early childhood education to manufacturing and assistive technologies, Lama deftly illustrates the ethical dilemmas that arise with any AI application - no matter how well-meaning. Kimberly and Lama discuss why perfectionism in the enemy of progress and the need to design for uncertainty in AI. Speaking to her quest to give people suffering from ALS back their voice, Lama stresses how designing for authenticity over expediency is critical to unlock the human experience.  While pondering the many ethical conundrums that keep her up at night, Lama shows how an expansive, multi-disciplinary approach is critical to mitigate harm. Any why cooperation between humans and AI maximizes the potential of both.  A full transcript of this episode can be found here. Our final episode this season features Dr. Ansgar Koene. Ansgar is the Global AI Ethics and Regulatory Leader at EY and a Sr. Research Fellow who specializes in social media, data ethics and AI regulation. Subscribe now to Pondering AI so you don’t miss him. 
Shalini Kantayya is a storyteller, social activist, and filmmaker who explores challenging social topics with empathy and humor. Shalini’s film Coded Bias debunks the myth that AI algorithms are objective by nature. In this thought-provoking discussion, Shalini illustrates why film is a powerful medium for social change (hint: it’s about empathy), shares her belief that humans – not machines – must reinvent the future, and shows how inclusion and a focus on the human experience are critical to get AI right.  Shalini artfully traces the inspiration for Coded Bias and the danger in ceding human autonomy to any unintelligent system. Kimberly and Shalini discuss why good intent and a sole focus on fairness and bias are not enough when considering AI’s future. Highlighting the work of researchers such as Dr. Timnit Gebru and Joy Buolamwini, Shalini makes the case for inclusion in AI and shares a proven recipe for moving the dial on ethical AI. Finally, Shalini speaks to the need for empathy in all things – including toward our innate human propensity for bias. And how storytelling keeps the human experience front-and-center, allowing us to cross boundaries and open hearts and minds to a different point of view.   A full transcript of this episode can be found here. Our next episode features Lama Nachman. Lama leads Intel’s Human & AI Systems Research Lab where she directs some of the most impactful work - such as giving people back their voice - in applied AI today. Subscribe now to Pondering AI so you don’t miss her. 
Teemu Roos is the lead instructor of the Elements of AI online course which has a pivotal role in Finland's unique, inclusive AI strategy. Teemu is also a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki and leader of the AI Education programme at the Finnish Center for AI.In this encouraging discussion, Teemu shares how an insatiable appetite for discovery led to a career as a ML researcher and educator. His excitement about projects ranging from astrophysics to neonatal brain development highlight AI’s endless potential and the importance of imagination and curiosity.  Teemu deftly explains why homogeneity makes doing good AI hard. He enthusiastically demonstrates how collaboration between data scientists, experts and laypersons exposes otherwise hidden opportunities. Kimberly and Teemu discuss the need for broad citizen engagement in AI and why the target audience for Elements of AI is “everyone who isn’t interested in AI”. And why we must focus on ethics and privacy now. With humor and optimism, Teemu helps us envision a future where everyone is informed, passionate and actively engaged in AI. A full transcript of this episode can be found here.Our next episode features Shalini Kantayya. Shalini is a filmmaker, activist, and self-proclaimed sci-fi fanatic. Her documentary Coded Bias exposes the biases and inequalities that can lurk within AI algorithms. Subscribe to Pondering AI now so you don’t miss her. 
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