Ivan Allen College Faculty Join NSF-Funded AI Institutes

Four Ivan Allen College professors will join colleagues from across Georgia Tech and the Georgia Research Alliance at new artificial intelligence-focused institutes funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and dedicated to addressing societal changes.

The institutes are part of two $20 million NSF grants to Georgia Tech and a third award for $20 million to the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), including Georgia Tech, all announced July 29.

Associate Professor Justin Biddle, Director of Graduate Research Ethics Programs Jason Borenstein, and Professor Michael Hoffmann will each be on the faculty of one of the new institutes: The NSF AI Institute for Collaborative Assistance and Responsive Interaction for Networked Groups (AI-CARING); the NSF AI Institute for Advances in Optimization (AI4Opt); and the NSF AI Institute for Adult Learning and Online Education (ALOE). Brian Magerko, professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, will also join ALOE.

The appointment of Biddle, Borenstein, Hoffman, and Magerko demonstrates the crucial role Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts plays in fulfilling Georgia Tech’s mission to develop leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition, said Kaye Husbands Fealing, dean and Ivan Allen Jr. Chair in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

“I know the work these faculty members do will add tremendous value to the important missions of these institutes,” she said. “When social science and humanities scholars at Georgia Tech, including in this case our esteemed philosophers, join with our colleagues in the sciences and engineering to fully explore the most challenging issues of our day,  the entire world can benefit.”

Biddle will work with researchers at AI4Opt, which will join AI and mathematical optimization into intelligent systems to achieve breakthroughs neither field could achieve independently.

“AI systems impact society not just based on how they are applied, but also how they are designed and framed,” Biddle said. “Because of this, it is crucial that ethical considerations be brought to bear throughout the research and design process and that ethicists and social scientists be involved at every step.”

Borenstein, will join AI-CARING and co-lead its research efforts on ethics and trust. The center will focus on AI systems to improve the quality of care for older adults.

“As a professor in the School of Public Policy who works in ethics, I am very excited about the opportunity to collaborate with researchers across several fields and institutions,” he said. “We are taking seriously that ethics should be embedded in every stage of our research projects.”

Hoffmann will join ALOE as part of its senior personnel and co-lead for sociotechnical systems. ALOE is dedicated to the development of new AI theories and techniques to enhance the quality of adult online education — especially for the workforce.

“The most interesting aspect of my collaboration with partners at the ALOE Institute,” said Hoffmann, “is that we will focus on getting input and feedback from future users of the developing AI learning technologies early on. Those whose lives and work will be most affected by the coming technologies will have a say on how these technologies should be designed to avoid harm by revealing unintended consequences.”

About Ethics Research and Education in the School of Public Policy

Faculty members in the School of Public Policy have long focused on the ethical considerations of science and technology. Faculty research ethical issues in the design of emerging contact tracing technologies, design ethics, social justice theory, and criticism broadly, as well as their relationship to emerging technologies such as smart cities, self-driving cars, and smart assistants. Additionally, Hoffmann has developed a platform for fostering reflection and self-correcting reasoning in teaching and deliberation.

School of Public Policy faculty also teach ethics classes to students from across campus, and recently, Biddle and Borenstein collaborated with a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit to help Iraqi universities develop an ethics curriculum for their engineering programs.

Biddle, Borenstein, and Hoffmann help lead ETHICx — the new ethics-focused research center in the Ivan Allen College and the College of Computing. The center advances ethics-in-technology-centered research, education, and engagement at Georgia Tech in collaboration with communities, government, non-governmental organizations, and industry. The office of the Executive Vice President for Research provided significant funds over a three-year period to seed the center.

For more about the NSF AI Institute awards, go to https://research.gatech.edu/georgia-tech-joins-us-national-science-foundation-advance-ai-research-and-education.

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