Panel Discussion: AI & Public Interest

Vinton Gray Cerf, Susan D'Agostino, Afua Bruce

How Do We Ensure AI Benefits Humans?

As artificial intelligence advancements hurtle forward, society is reckoning with the question of how humans may co-exist with intelligent machines and algorithms they cannot fully predict. AI research has contributed incalculable benefits to humankind, including help with developing the COVID-19 vaccine at record speed. At the same time, many esteemed scientists, including some Turing Award recipients, have expressed deep concerns about the direction and speed at which AI is developing.

In this conversation, we’ll first discuss the effectiveness –or sometimes ineffectiveness – of universities’ efforts in teaching ethics alongside technology. Next, we will consider instances where early computing pioneers may not have fully anticipated all of the risks of some emerging technologies and perhaps could not have done so. Finally, we will discuss some ways in which young AI researchers and entrepreneurs might proceed differently – by asking questions about the public interest alongside work on technical problems.

Moderator: Susan D’Agostino
Susan D’Agostino is a Spencer Journalism Fellow at Columbia University and the technology correspondent at Inside Higher Ed, where she reports on artificial intelligence for 2.3 million monthly readers. Her science writing has been published in The Atlantic, Washington Post, Scientific American, Wired, Quanta, BBC, and Nature. Her book, How To Free Your Inner Mathematician (Oxford University Press, 2020), received the Mathematical Association of America’s 2023 Euler Book Prize. Her writing has been recognized with fellowships from the Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, National Association of Science Writers, and Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

Vinton Gray Cerf
ACM A.M. Turing Award - 2004
Together with Robert E. Kahn for pioneering work on internetworking, including the design and implementation of the Internet’s basic communications protocols, TCP/IP, and for inspired leadership in networking

Afua Bruce
Afua Bruce is a leading public interest technologist who works at the intersection of technology, policy, and society. Afua is the Principal of the ANB Advisory Group LLC, a consulting firm that supports organizations developing, implementing, or funding responsible data and technology. With her background in software engineering, data science, and artificial intelligence, combined with experience developing and deploying technology in and with communities, Afua incorporates an equity-based framework into her engagements. Afua is an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University and an affiliate at Harvard Kennedy School’s Berkman Klein Center. Afua’s newest book, The Tech That Comes Next: How Changemakers, Technologists, and Philanthropists can Build an Equitable World, describes how technology can advance equity.