A Brief Report on AI and Machine Learning Fairness Initiatives

This report was created by Joni Salminen and Catherine R. Sloan. Publication date: December 10, 2017.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are becoming more influential in society, as more decision-making power is being shifted to algorithms either directly or indirectly. Because of this, several research organizations and initiatives studying fairness of AI and machine learning have been started. We decided to conduct a review of these organizations and initiatives.

This is how we went about it. First, we used our prior information about different initiatives that we were familiar with. We used this information to draft an initial list and supplemented this list by conducting Google and Bing searches with key phrases relating to machine learning or artificial intelligence and fairness. Overall, we found 25 organization or initiatives. We analyzed these in greater detail. For each organization / initiative, we aimed to retrieve at least the following information:

  • Name of the organization / initiative
  • URL of the organization / initiative
  • Founded in (year)
  • Short description of the organization / initiative
  • Purpose of the organization / initiative
  • University or funding partner

Based on the above information, we wrote this brief report. Its purpose is to chart current initiatives around the world relating to fairness, accountability and transparency of machine learning and AI. At the moment, several stakeholders are engaged in research on this topic area, but it is uncertain how well they are aware of each other and if there is a sufficient degree of collaboration among them. We hope this list increases awareness and encounters among the initiatives.

In the following, the initiatives are presented in alphabetical order.

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AI100: Stanford University’s One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence

https://ai100.stanford.edu/

Founded in 2016, this is an initiative launched by computer scientist Eric Horvitz and driven by seven diverse academicians focused on the influences of artificial intelligence on people and society. The goal is to anticipate how AI will impact every aspect of how people work, live and play, including automation, national security, psychology, ethics, law, privacy and democracy.  AI100 is funded by a gift from Eric and Mary Horvitz.

AI for Good Global Summit

http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/AI/Pages/201706-default.aspx

AI for Good Global Summit was held in Geneva, 7-9 June, 2017 in partnership with a number of United Nation (UN) sister agencies. The Summit aimed to accelerate and advance the development and democratization of AI solutions that can address specific global challenges related to poverty, hunger, health, education, the environment, and other social purposes.

AI Forum New Zealand

https://aiforum.org.nz/about/

The AI Forum was launched in 2017 as a membership funded association for those with a passion for the opportunities AI can provide. The Forum connects AI tech innovators, investor groups, regulators, researchers, educators, entrepreneurs and the public.  Its executive council includes representatives of Microsoft and IBM as well as start-ups and higher education.  Currently the Forum is involved with a large-scale research project on the impact of AI on New Zealand’s economy and society.

AI Now Institute

https://ainowinstitute.org/

The AI Now Institute at New York University (NYU) was founded by Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker in 2017.  It’s an interdisciplinary research center dedicated to understanding the social implications of artificial intelligence.  Its work focuses on four core domains: 1) Rights & Liberties, 2) Labor & Automation, 3) Bias & Inclusion and 4) Safety & Critical Infrastructure.  The Institute’s partners include NYU’s schools of Engineering (Tandon), Business (Stern) and Law, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Partnership on AI.

Algorithms, Automation, and News

http://www.algorithmic.news/call-for-papers.html

AAWS is an international conference focusing on impact of algorithms on news. Among the studied topics, the call for papers lists 1) concerns around news quality, transparency, and accountability in general; 2) hidden biases built into algorithms deciding what’s newsworthy; 3) the outcomes of information filtering such as ‘popularism’ (some content is favored over other content) and the transparency and accountability of the decisions made about what the public sees; 4) the privacy of data collected on individuals for the purposes of newsgathering and distribution; 5) the legal issues of libel by algorithm, 6) private information worlds and filter bubbles, and 7) the relationship between algorithms and ‘fake news’. The acceptance rate for the 2018 conference was about 12%. The conference is organized by Center for Advanced Studies at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) and supported by Volkswagen Foundation and University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication. The organizers aim to release a special issue of Digital Journalism and a book, and one of them (Neil Thurman) is engaged in a research project on ’Algorithmic News’.

Algoritmitutkimus

http://www.algoritmitutkimus.fi

This research project was founded in early 2017 at the University of Turku in Finland as a collaboration of its School of Economics with the BioNLP unit of University of Turku. There are currently three researchers involved, one from social science background and two from computer science. The project studies the societal impact and risks of machine decision-making. It has been funded by Kone Foundation and Kaute Foundation.

Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)

https://cdt.org/blog/digital-decisions-tool/

CDT is a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington. They describe themselves as “a team of experts with deep knowledge of issues pertaining to the internet, privacy, security, technology, and intellectual property. We come from academia, private enterprise, government, and the non-profit worlds to translate complex policy into action.” The organization is currently focused on the following issues: 1) Privacy and data, 2) Free expression, 3) Security and surveillance, 4) European Union, and 5) Internet architecture. In August 2017, CDT launched a digital decisions tool to help engineers and product managers mitigate algorithmic bias in machine decision making. The tool translates principles for fair and ethical decision-making into a series of questions that can be addressed while designing and deploying an algorithm. The questions address developers’ choices: what data to use to train the algorithm, what features to consider, and how to test the algorithm’s potential bias.

Data & Society’s Intelligence and Autonomy Initiative

http://autonomy.datasociety.net/

This initiative was founded in 2015 and is based in New York City. It develops grounded qualitative empirical research to provide nuanced understandings of emerging technologies to inform the design, evaluation and regulation of AI-driven systems, while avoiding both utopian and dystopian scenarios. The goal is to engage diverse stakeholders in interdisciplinary discussions to inform structures of AI accountability and governance from the bottom up. I&A is funded by a research grant from the Knight Foundation’s Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund, and was previously supported by grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Microsoft Research.

Facebook AI Research (FAIR)

https://research.fb.com/category/facebook-ai-research-fair/

Facebook’s research program engages with academics, publications, open source software, and technical conferences and workshops.  Its researchers are based in Menlo Park, CA, New York City and Paris, France. Its CommAI project aims to develop new data sets and algorithms to develop and evaluate general purpose artificial agents that rely on a linguistic interface and can quickly adapt to a stream of tasks.

FATE 

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/group/fate/

This internal Microsoft group focuses on Fairness, Accountability, Transparency and Ethics in AI and was launched in 2014.  Its goal is to develop, via collaborative research projects, computational techniques that are both innovative and ethical, while drawing on the deeper context surrounding these issues from sociology, history and science.

Good AI

https://www.goodai.com/

Good AI was founded in 2014 as an international group based in Prague, Czech Republic dedicated to developing AI quickly to help humanity and to understand the universe. Its founding CEO Marek Rosa funded the project with $10M. Good AI’s R&D company went public in 2015 and is comprised of a team of 20 research scientists. In 2017 Good AI participated in global AI conferences in Amsterdam, London and Tokyo and hosted data science competitions.

Google Jigsaw

https://jigsaw.google.com/

Jigsaw is a technology incubator focusing on geopolitical challenges, originating from Google Ideas, as a ”think/do tank” for issues at the interface of technology and geopolitics. One of the projects of Jigsaw is the Perspective API that uses machine learning to identify abuse and harassment online. Perspective rates comments based on the perceived impact a comment might have on the conversation. Perspective can be used use to give real-time feedback to commenters, help moderators sort comments more effectively, or allow readers to find relevant information. The first model of Perspective API identifies whether a comment is perceived as “toxic” in a discussion.

IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in AI and Autonomous Systems

https://standards.ieee.org/develop/indconn/ec/autonomous_systems.html

In 2016, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) launched a project seeking public input on ethically designed AI. In April 2017, the IEEE hosted a related dinner for the European Parliament in Brussels.  In July 2017, it issued a preliminary report entitled Prioritizing Human Well Being in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.  IEEE is conducting a consensus driven standards project for “soft governance” of AI that may produce a “bill of rights” regarding what personal data is “off limits” without the need for regulation. They set up 11 different active standards groups for interested collaborators to join in 2017 and were projecting new reports by the end of the year. IEEE has also released a report on Ethically Aligned Design in artificial intelligence, part of a initiative to ensure ethical principles are considered in systems design.

Internet Society (ISOC)

https://www.internetsociety.org/

The ISOC is a non-profit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet-related standards, education, access, and policy. It is headquartered in Virginia, USA. The organization published a paper in April, 2017 that explains commercial uses of AI technology and provides recommendations for dealing with its management challenges, including 1) transparency, bias and accountability, 2) security and safety, 3) socio-economic impacts and ethics, and 4) new data uses and ecosystems. The recommendations include, among others, adopting ethical standards in the design of AI products and innovation policies, providing explanations to end users about why a specific decision was made, making it simpler to understand why algorithmic decision-making works, and introducing “algorithmic literacy” as a basic skills obtained through education.

Knight Foundation’s Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund https://www.knightfoundation.org/aifund-faq

The AI Fund was founded in January 2017 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, Harvard University’s Berkman-Klein Center, the Knight Foundation, Omidyar Network and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn.  It is currently housed at the Miami Foundation in Miami, Florida.

The goal of the AI Fund is to ensure that the development of AI becomes a joint multidisciplinary human endeavor that bridges computer scientists, engineers, social scientists, philosophers, faith leaders, economists, lawyers and policymakers.  The aim is to accomplish this by supporting work around the world that advances the development of ethical AI in the public interest, with an emphasis on research and education.

In May 2017, the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard kicked off its collaboration with the MIT Media Lab on their Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative focused on strategic research, learning and experimentation. Possible avenues of empirical research were discussed, and the outlines of a taxonomy emerged. Topics of this initiative include: use of AI-powered personal assistants, attitudes of youth, impact on news generation, and moderating online hate speech.

Moreover, Harvard’s Ethics and Governance of AI Fund has committed an initial $7.6M in grants to support nine organizations to strengthen the voice of civil society in the development of AI. An excerpt from their post: “Additional projects and activities will address common challenges across these core areas such as the global governance of AI and the ways in which the use of AI may reinforce existing biases, particularly against underserved and underrepresented populations.” Finally, a report of a December 2017 BKC presentation on building AI for an inclusive society has been published and can be accessed from the above link.

MIT-IBM Watson Lab

http://mitibmwatsonailab.mit.edu/

Founded in September 2017, MIT’s new $240 million center in collaboration with IBM, is intended to help advance the field of AI by “developing novel devices and materials to power the latest machine-learning algorithms.”  This project overlaps with the Partnership on AI. IBM hopes it will help the company reclaim its reputation in the AI space.  In another industry sector, Toyota made a billion-dollar investment in funding for its own AI center, plus research at both MIT and Stanford. The MIT-IBM Lab will be one of the “largest long-term university-industry AI collaborations to date,” mobilizing the talent of more than 100 AI scientists, professors, and students to pursue joint research at IBM’s Research Lab. The lab is co-located with the IBM Watson Health and IBM Security headquarters in Cambridge, MA. The stated goal is to push the boundaries in AI technology in several areas: 1) AI algorithms, 2) physics of AI, 3) application of AI to industries, and 4) advanced shared prosperity through AI.

In addition to this collaboration, IBM argues its Watson platform has been designed to be transparent. David Kenny, who heads Watson, said the following in a press conference: “I believe industry has a responsibility to step up. We all have a right to know how that decision was made [by AI],” Kenny said. “It cannot be a blackbox. We’ve constructed Watson to always be able to show how it came to the inference it came to. That way a human can always make a judgment and make sure there isn’t an inherent bias.”

New Zealand Law Foundation Centre for Law & Policy in Emerging Technologies

http://www.lawfoundation.org.nz/?page_id=171

Professor Colin Gavaghan of the University of Otago heads a research centre examining the legal, ethical and policy issues around new technologies including artificial intelligence.  In 2011, it hosted a forum on the Future of Fairness.  The Law Foundation provided an endowment of $1.5M to fund the NZLF Centre and Chair in Emerging Technologies.

Obama White House Report: Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/10/12/administrations-report-future-artificial-intelligence

The Obama Administration’s report on the future of AI was issued on October 16, 2016 in conjunction with a “White House Frontiers” conference focused on data science, machine learning, automation and robotics in Pittsburgh, PA. It followed a series of initiatives conducted by the WH Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) in 2016. The report contains a snapshot of the state of AI technology and identifies questions that evolution of AI raises for society and public policy.  The topics include improving government operations, adapting regulations for safe automated vehicles, and making sure AI applications are “fair, safe, and governable.”  AI’s impact on jobs and the economy was another major focus. A companion paper laid out a strategic plan for Federally funded research and development in AI. President Trump has not named a Director for OSTP, so this plan is not currently being implemented. However, law makers in the US are showing further interest in legislation. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) said in a press conference in June, 2017: “I think transparency [of machine decision making] is obviously really important. I think if the industry doesn’t do enough of it, I think we’ll [need to consider legislation] because I think it really matters to the American people.” These efforts are part of the Congressional AI Caucus launched in May 2017, focused on implications of AI for the tech industry, economy and society overall.

OpenAI

https://www.openai.com/

OpenAI is a non-profit artificial intelligence research company in California that aims to develop general AI in such a way as to benefit humanity as a whole. It has received more than 1 billion USD in commitments to promote research and other activities aimed at supporting the safe development of AI. The company focuses on long-term research. Founders of OpenAI include Elon Musk and Sam Altman. The sponsors include, in addition to individuals, YC Research, Infosys, Microsoft, Amazon, and Open Philanthropy Project. The open source contributions can be found at https://github.com/openai.

PAIR: People + AI Research Initiative

https://ai.google/pair/

This is a Google initiative that was launched in 2017 to focus on discovering how AI can augment the expert intelligence of professionals such as doctors, technicians, designers, farmers, musicians and others. It also aims to make AI more inclusive and accessible to everyone. Visiting faculty members are Hal Abelson and Brendan Meade.  Current projects involve drawing and diversity in machine learning, an open library for training neural nets, training data for models, and design via machine learning.

Partnership on AI

https://www.partnershiponai.org/

The Partnership was founded in September 2016 by Eric Horvitz and Mustafa Suleyman to study and formulate best practices for AI technologies, to advance the public’s understanding of AI, and to serve as an open platform for discussion and engagement about AI and influences on people and society.  Partnership on AI is funded financially and supported in-kind with research by its members, including founding members Amazon, Google/DeepMind, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft.  In 2017, it expanded corporate and NGO membership, adding members such as Ebay, Intel, Salesforce and Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT).  It hired an Executive Director, Terah Lyons, and boasts independent Board members from UC Berkley and the ACLU.  The group has had affiliation discussions with the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. In 2016 the Partnership expressed its support for the Obama White House Report.

Rajapinta.co

https://rajapinta.co/

Rajapinta is a scientific association founded in January 2017 that advocates the social scientific study of ICT and ICT applications to social research in Finland.  Its short-term goal is to improve collaboration and provide opportunities for meetings and networking in the hopes of establishing a seat at the table in the global scientific community in the longer term.  Funding sources are not readily available.

Royal Society of UK’s Machine Learning Project

https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/machine-learning/

The Royal Society is a fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists and is currently conducting a project on machine learning (as a branch of AI), which in April 2017 produced a very comprehensive report titled Machine learning: the power and promise of computers that learn by example.  It explores everyday ways in which people interact with machine learning systems, such as in social media image recognition, voice recognition systems, virtual personal assistants and recommendation systems used by online retailers.  The grant funding for this particular project within the much larger Royal Society is unclear.


Workshop on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency in Machine Learning
(FatML)

https://www.fatml.org/

Founded in 2014, FatML is an annual two-day conference that brings together researchers and practitioners concerned with fairness, accountability and transparency in machine learning, given a recognition that ML raises novel challenges around ensuring non-discrimination, due process and explainability of institutional decision-making.  According to the initiative, corporations and governments must be supervised in their use of algorithmic decision making.  FatML makes current scholarly resources on related subjects publicly available. The conference is funded in part by registration fees and possibly subsidized by corporate organizers such as Google, Microsoft and Cloudflare. Their August 2017 event was held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

World Economic Forum (WEF)

https://www.weforum.org/

WEF released a blog post in July 2017 on the risks of algorithmic decision making to civil rights, mentioning US law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology, and other examples. The post argues humans are facing “algorithmic regulation” for example in public entitlements or benefits. It cites self-reinforcing bias as one of the five biggest problems with allowing AI into the government policy arena. In September 2017, the WEF released another post suggesting that a Magna Carta (“charter of rights”) for AI is needed; this essentially refers to commonly agreed upon rules and rights for both individuals and yielders of algorithm-based decision making authority. According to the post, the foundational elements of such an agreement include making sure AI creates jobs for all, rules dealing with machine curated news feeds and polarization, rules avoiding discrimination and bias of machine decision making, and safeguards for ensuring personal choice without sacrificing privacy for commercial efficiency.

Conclusion

From the above, we can conclude three points. First, different levels of stakeholders around the world have been activated to study the impact of technology on machine-decision making, as shown by the multitude of projects. On the research side, there are several recently founded research projects and conferences (e.g., AAWS, FatML). In a similar vein, industry players such as IBM, Microsoft and Facebook also show commitment in solving the associated challenges in their platforms. Moreover, policy makers are investigating the issues as well, as shown by the Obama administration’s report and the new Congressional AI Caucus.

Second, in addition to the topic being of interest for different stakeholders, it also involves a considerable number of different perspectives, including but not limited to aspects of computer science, ethics, law, politics, journalism and economics. Such a great degree of cross-sectionalism and multidisciplinary effort is not common for research projects that often tend to focus on a narrower field of expertise; thus, it might be more challenging to produce solutions that are theoretically sound and practically functional.

Third, there seems to be much overlap between the initiatives mentioned here; many of the initiatives seem to focus on solving the same problems, but it is unclear how well the initiatives are aware of each other and whether a centralized research agenda and resource sharing or joint allocation might help achieve results faster.

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Notice an initiative or organization missing from this report? Please send information to Dr. Joni Salminen: joolsa@utu.fi.

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