Symposium Explored Future of AI and Robotics

The good and the bad of artificial intelligence


November 8, 2018

The final event of Oregon State’s 150th anniversary — “The Promise and the Peril of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics” was attended by more than 1,000 people. Thought-provoking panel discussions informed by OSU inter-disciplinary researchers and guest speakers ran throughout the day. The evening closed with a keynote address delivered by Jacob Ward, Science and Technology correspondent for CNN and Al Jazeera.

Unintended consequence was a counterbalance thread stitched through all of the forward-thinking artificial intelligence research discussed in the various sessions.

In the first panel for example, Cindy Grimm listed a number of tasks where AI might serve society — typically for chores like laundry or vacuuming the house, but then she added a caveat, “When we ask our phone what is the best movie to see, we are starting to trust these systems so much that we forget to sanity-check them.” Grimm is a professor in the Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute in OSU’s College of Engineering.

Stephanie Jenkins, a professor of philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts suggested that one of the greatest benefits might be the improvement of the lives of people with disabilities by increasing the accessibility of our social and built environments. She used video subtitles for the hard of hearing as an example. However, the disadvantages of the same technology might include social pressure that could force people with disabilities to function in normal ways. Jenkins’ expertise includes disability studies.

While introducing a discussion on privacy issues, moderator Thomas Dietterich, OSU professor emeritus in computer science, offered a starting point by way of saying, “I’m astonished at how many people have invited Alexa into their homes to monitor their conversations.” Dietterich who is a highly-regarded thought leader in the field of machine learning and robotics was recently interviewed by Terra. Read that feature here, and on this page, find videos of the panel discussions.

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