AI Researchers in the Spotlight
“Raise your child to be kind, friendly, reliable, honest. Teach them to listen to their heart, to stay calm in difficult situations, teach them to concentrate. All of the aforementioned qualities and skills are the constants of humankind.” — Dr. Michael Laakasuo (PI, Moralities of Intelligent Machines, Helsinki University)
They are invisible to the public, but their research work in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning has powerful implications and consequences for our society and is shaping the future of our world in profound ways that even they struggle to understand.
Who are they? What is their work really about? What can we learn from their struggle to define and reveal the mysteries of AI? How will their work help us to grasp the true purpose and potential of AI and our individual and collective role in shaping it? And how can their work help us to avoid the potentially dangerous downsides of our world being run by algorithms?
At big tech companies like Facebook, Google and Apple, AI researchers are coveted and rewarded with 6-figure salaries (Why A.I. Researchers at Google Got Desks Next to the Boss). But this hardly tells the whole story of the countless men and women around the world working to advance AI and some of the conflicts they are encountering as AI advances exponentially (eg, What an artificial intelligence researcher fears about AI and AI Researchers Are Boycotting Nature’s New Machine Intelligence Journal).
In this new Tech 2025 event series (part of our Mission AI Research initiative), we are inviting the men and women who are working at the forefront of AI and Machine Learning research to share their stories and their work with us, and to allow us to question them about their work as well as exchange ideas about the potential impact of AI research on society.
Moralities of Intelligent Machines
JOIN US as we welcome Dr. Michael Laakasuo, Principal Investigator, Moralities of the Intelligent Machines and Researcher at the Evolutionary Psychology lab of VU Amsterdam who holds a a PhD in cognitive science, into our Digital Think Tank (the online version of our popular real world think tanks where participants not only watch guest speaker present their ideas and work, also participate in group problem-solving sessions related to the topic). In this session, Michael will present his new research, Moralities of Intelligent Machines.
Within the last decade, robots have not only become mainstream, they are very much a part of our personal lives. In 2012, The Economist noted that robotics had developed so far that it’s moral implications could no longer be brushed aside. Since then, AI and robotics have exploded, but a field that would study the moral psychology of robots has yet to be created. We have very little information on how robots impact or will impact our well-being. A few of the questions this research explores includes:
- Would we prefer to have robots who have higher ethical standards than we have ourselves?
- Who should take the responsibility when a robot malfunctions and kills someone?
- What should autonomous vehicles do when they need to make a choice between a head-on collision and running over a pedestrian.
Previous moral psychological research has no framework for this. Michael and his research team assert that we need new ways of approaching these topics and problems in order to understand how humans and robots might engage optimally. Moralities of Intelligent Machines, explores the types of preferences people have for robot moralities. During this session, we will learn about AI research in Helsinki and how Michael and his team are constructing this research and what their ultimate goals are.
How does this research help society?
The following is relevant articles you may want to explore to learn more about the topic:
- US Navy funds morality lessons for robots (Wired)
- Why we must teach morality to robots (The Guardian)
- Machine ethics: The robot’s dilemma – Working out how to build ethical robots is one of the thorniest challenges in artificial intelligence. (Nature)
- How to Build a Moral Robot (IEEE Spectrum)
- Can we trust robots to make moral decisions? (Quartz)
- Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong by Wendell Wallach
Join the Digital Think Tank and Offer Feedback
To join the session, RSVP below and we’ll send you a link to join the session when it starts. Do you have questions you’d like to submit to the discussion? Submit your question below when you RSVP. 😎
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