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U of A podcast AI4Society Dialogues aims to bring AI to everyday life

The first instalment of the podcast has ten episodes interviewing multidisciplinary researchers and how their work relates to AI.

A new University of Alberta podcast AI4Society Dialogues aims to make artificial intelligence (AI) knowledge and research more accessible and pertinent to everyday society.

AI4Society is one of the five signature research areas at the U of A, which is a research area the university strives to be a global leader in. AI4Society has created a podcast to achieve its goal of educating and sharing AI research and related fields to its audience. Named AI4Society Dialogues, the podcast aims to enlighten and share the knowledge of AI through interviewing AI researchers and disciplines related to AI. 

The podcast is hosted and produced by Katrina Ingram, a U of A alumna with a master’s in communication and technology, in collaboration with the AI4Society and the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies (KIAS). The A14Society is directed by Eleni Stroulia, a computer science professor at the U of A and Geoffrey Rockwell, a professor of philosophy at the U of A and director of KIAS.

Stroulia said that for the first instalment of the podcast, there are ten episodes that correspond to ten different researchers related to AI such as Michael Frishkopf, an ethnomusicologist and Francois Bolduc, a pediatric neurologist. 

Stroulia believes the general public should learn about AI because “ it is real, it is happening at varying degrees,” and society has a big responsibility for how technology is deployed and how it is done in the future. 

Ingram’s process as a host is to research her interviewee’s publications and biographical history in order to create approximately twenty open-ended questions for the podcast. After some audio clean-up, there is technical post-processing for sound and to include an introductory message summarizing the interview. The final product is around 45 to 60 minutes long. 

“It [is] interesting to have an informal chat with a person, understand their evolution as a researcher, listen to their thoughts about their own careers and whatever AI is supposed to be doing now,” Stroulia said.

Stroulia admits that it was intentional to have both a computing scientist and a philosophy professor, Geoffrey Rockwell, as directors of the AI4Society. She describes AI as both a mental and technical innovation that has ultimately impacted all aspects of human life. In order to understand the technology of society, Stroulia said a multidisciplinary partnership is necessary.

“To understand the impact of the technology of society, you need somebody with a different kind of training from the arts — from a different kind of school of thought,” Stroulia said. “Geoffrey is a philosopher. He is also interested in ethics and philosophy of science and technology, so he brings his own perspective to the work as a whole but also to the podcast.”

Stroulia sais she understands that AI can be complex but this is why AI4Society Dialogues is important for learning and sharing AI knowledge.

 “This is yet another phase in time where we have to engage thoughtfully with knowledge and understanding — what we should be doing as a society in order to make it to work for us,”  Stroulia said 

Stroulia explains that AI4Society Dialogues approaches AI from not just a technical perspective but also a multidisciplinary perspective that may contemplate the idea of AI and human relations.

“Artificial intelligence is mentally or primarily a technical innovation but it is impacting all aspects of our lives, and if you want to understand the impact of the technology of society, you need somebody with a different kind of training from the arts — from a different kind of school of thought.”

Stroulia explains further her thoughts about the relationship of humans and AI and how they can work together despite their differences. 

“Maybe what we should be thinking is what is the optimal combination of human and AI teams to do whatever we need to get done and to complement each other, if we’re not going to be similarly working,” Stroulia said.

Stroulia said one of AI4Society Dialogues and society’s overall mission in terms of technology is to deal with its inescapable aspect.

“These kinds of choices are unavoidable and it is our job as a society to make sure that those who are impacted by some technology or some economic phenomenon are taken care of.”

Correction: On June 2, at 6:34 p.m., the article was updated to correctly identify Eleni Stroulia and Geoffrey Rockwell as directors of the AI4Society, rather than directors of the AI4Society Dialogues podcast. The Gateway regrets this error.


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