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'Many Worlds of AI' Conference Reflections

Bing Song Conference Presentation

We held our inaugural international conference, ‘Many Worlds of AI’ at the end of April at Jesus College, Cambridge, in conjunction with the team at the University of Bonn. The aim of this conference was to interrogate how an intercultural approach to ethics can inform the processes of conceiving, designing, and regulating artificial intelligence (AI). Following the conference, we are really pleased to be able to share some of our highlights and reflections. 

Along with presentations and panels, we had art-based and participatory workshops. 

AI Dance

For our research assistant Abdullah Safir, the conference embodied the multicultural aims as 

“It actually felt like 'Many Worlds' is here, for real! By foregrounding the many worlds of AI, we aimed to create a space for dialogue between different worldviews without reifying the notion of discrete and unchanging cultural approaches to AI. The three days of the conference hosted five sessions, twenty panels and more than fifty academic and industry-led (including Google, DeepMind, and IBM) presentations, workshops, panel discussions and artworks. We hosted more than 100 attendees (almost 55% identifying as she/hers) from 28 countries. 85% of our attendees attended in-person including 17 presenters who are fully-funded by us. There was a collective conscious effort towards ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion in ‘Many Worlds of AI’ Conference as well as accommodating ideas from different disciplines and industries working in the AI sphere and I think it worked wonderfully.” (Abdullah Safir)

Conference presenter

Dr Chelsea Haramia, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Bonn, reflected on what a plurality of visions co-existing looks like philosophically and for designers in the face of rapid AI change and highlights how the conference contributed to a vision of plurality:

“Promoting a plurality of visions is valuable, but the value we were able to experience at this meeting was not simply the addition of visions to an already-established set of ideas about how to proceed. The value was in the refusal to proceed only from a set of dominant assumptions about what discussions about AI should look like. The commitment to listening and to putting non-standard approaches on the same footing as dominant approaches allowed the participants to explore more fully and expansively the many foundational questions at hand. We discovered not only diversity, plurality, and difference but also areas of common ground and opportunities for securing cohesion and unity. Proper unification does not require uniformity, but it does require that we embrace a plurality that is free of hierarchies, and the participants at this meeting worked hard to bring AI discussions closer to this lofty goal” (Dr Chelsea Haramia)

Conference presenter 2

For the conference organiser, Dr Tomasz Hollenek, the conference created a dialogue between cultures, industries and disciplines as: 

“Many participants mentioned that this was the most diverse – in all possible ways – AI conference they have ever attended. We know that many of the attendees have already started to think of new collaborative projects with the people they got to meet in Cambridge. We have to wait to see what these conversations will result in, but we are happy that we managed to facilitate this early stage.” (Dr Tomasz Hollanek)

We are really excited about what might come from the conference as

“Nearly all in-person attendees stayed at the conference until the very last talk – this level of engagement is testament to the relevance of the intercultural ethics lens to the broader field of AI ethics” (Dr Tomasz Hollanek)

Stephen at the conference Conference group work
So watch this space! 

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