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Notre Dame hosts Rome Call for AI Ethics summit

Notre Dame is working with IBM and the Pontifical Academy for Life to host the Global University Summit for the Rome Call for AI Ethics. The summit, which began Wednesday, is a two-day event running through Thursday evening featuring panelists and speakers from around the world discussing ways universities can promote an ethical approach to researching and developing artificial intelligence (AI).

On Wednesday, speakers and moderators included Pascale Fung, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, Betsy Greytok, who serves as vice president of ethics and policy at IBM and Kirsten Martin, the director of the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center. While the first day consisted primarily of panels and keynotes, the Rome Call for AI Ethics signing ceremony will highlight Thursday’s events. During the signing ceremony, Notre Dame and seven other universities will commit themselves to demonstrate the importance of academics in promoting ethics in AI.  

The goal of the event is to show that AI is about more than just innovating, said Erin Klawitter, member of the event planning committee and associate director of the Notre Dame-IBM Technology Ethics Lab. Many people separate technology from humanities and the idea of ethics, she said. The summit aims to show that it is necessary for them to work hand in hand. 

“An event like this is about helping educate the next generation of scholars and researchers and policymakers about artificial intelligence and why it’s important to put humans at the center of developing that kind of technology,” Klawitter said. 

IBM Fellow & AI Ethics global leader Francesca Rossi said the summit involves universities around the world because the impact of AI is global. 

“AI is built somewhere, but then it can be deployed anywhere because AI is so pervasive in every society, whether it is the East or the West,” she said. “Also because of the values that we want to embed in AI, to make sure that it follows our values, that it supports and protects human values.”

Rossi said incorporating human values into AI is easier said than done. Forcing a universal set of values onto every country is difficult, she said.

“These values need to be compared and confronted because they can be different in different cultures and different legal systems,” Rossi said. 

The summit also hopes to highlight the intersection between academia and business within the realm of AI. Universities are able to focus more on the ideal principles of ethics during the stages of development. Meanwhile, companies are worried about navigating this problem in the real world, Rossi said. 

“The idea was to create a network so the universities here will — hopefully from now on — be able to connect here and be able to share with each other the best practices about what you’re doing around ethics,” Rossi said. 

Klawitter said the event aligns with the Notre Dame mission of being a force for good. The planning members feel as though the discussion of AI ethics helps the University achieve that mission and its goals. 

“Notre Dame is aligned with the Rome Call and all the signatories’ commitment to develop artificial intelligence that centers the human person and the common good of humanity so that all people can benefit from new technological capabilities,” she said. 

She also emphasized that the intersection of technology and ethics aligns with the liberal arts approach to learning that Notre Dame uses within its core requirements.

“Notre Dame has a long history and commitment to philosophy and theology and fostering research and scholarship in the area of ethics and technology,” Klawitter said. “This is just another step in another area of building up that strength that the University has in its commitments to those core disciplines.”

Contact Emma Duffy at eduffy5@nd.edu.

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