Published: 27 November 2020
Innovative research focused on developing trusted artificial intelligence (AI) systems will put people at their heart, involved in active decision-making, rather than having them act as passive providers of data.
The work has earned a prestigious Turing AI Acceleration Fellowship for Dr Sebastian Stein at the University of Southampton. Over the next five years, Dr Stein will use the £1.4m fellowship to develop and trial citizen-centric AI systems in a range of applications – from using crowdsourced information to assist in disaster response to helping people to manage their energy needs. The technology would also include for the provision of advice and medical support during epidemics like COVID-19.
“Novel approaches are needed to build AI systems that are trusted by citizens, that are inclusive and that achieve their goals effectively,” says Dr Stein of Southampton’s Agents, Interaction and Complexity (AIC) research group. “To enable this, citizens must be viewed as first-class agents at the centre of AI systems, rather than as passive data sources.
“AI systems are increasingly used to support and often automate decision-making on an unprecedented scale,” he continues. “Such AI systems can draw on a vast range of data sources to make fast, efficient, data-driven decisions to address important societal challenges and potentially benefit millions of people.
“However, building AI systems on such a large and pervasive scale raises a range of important challenges,” he continues. “First, these systems may need access to relevant information from people, such as health-related data, which raises privacy issues and may also encourage people to misrepresent their requirements for personal benefit. Furthermore, the systems must be trusted to act in a manner that aligns with society’s ethical values. This includes the minimisation of discrimination and the need to make equitable decisions.”
Dr Stein is one of 15 leading researchers from UK universities awarded Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships, supported by a £20million government investment being delivered through UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), in partnership with the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Office for AI and the Alan Turing Institute.
The Fellowships, named after AI pioneer Alan Turing, are aimed at progressing research to develop cutting-edge AI technologies with the potential for transformative impact.
Dr Stein will work with a range of stakeholders over the duration of the fellowship. This will include citizen end-users, to ensure the research aligns with their needs and values, as well as high-profile industrial partners, to put the research into practice.