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Caian to present report at UN AI for Good Summit

  • 16 June 2021

A report co-authored by Gonville & Caius College PhD student Tomasz Hollanek (Film and Screen 2017) will be presented to the United Nations AI for Good Summit next week.

Tomasz is a final year PhD student working on design theory and technology ethics, with a focus on AI (artificial intelligence). His thesis title is Design and Critique in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.

The report Imagining a Future with Intelligent Machines: A Middle Eastern and North African Perspective is a joint enterprise between the University of Cambridge-backed Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence and the American University in Cairo, Egypt, co-authored by Tomasz, Dr Kanta Dihal, Professor Nagla Rizk, Nadine Weheba and Dr Stephen Cave. The presentation of the report takes place on Wednesday 23 June. Register online.

“The Global AI Narratives Project, of which the report is a product, looks at how different regions perceive the risks and benefits of artificial intelligence and what cultural traditions influence these perceptions,” Tomasz says.

“The initial phase of the AI Narratives Project investigated how Western portrayals of intelligent machines influence our perception of artificial intelligence today.

“Then the question became about how people imagine intelligent machines differently in different parts of the world where other traditions influence people’s perceptions of the technology, or visions for what it should be doing.”

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at CFI, managed by Dr Dihal and Dr Cave, analysed how these diverse visions of technology determine values that go into AI development – and how more awareness of the diversity could help us produce better, more inclusive, technologies in the future.

Tomasz is looking forward to the launch of the report that focuses on AI in the Arab World.

“When you work in philosophy or cultural studies it’s very rare that you feel that your research can have a tangible impact,” he adds.

“I’m quite excited being a part of this project, and seeing that the outputs can be presented to that kind of audience does make me feel that something will come out of it.

“We’re not just producing it for academics; the report is targeting a very broad audience, including policymakers and technologists.”

Tomasz’s original academic background is in literature and media studies, and his PhD is based at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Film and Screen Studies. He also worked in user experience design at several technology companies, and this how his interests in ethics and continental philosophy began to overlap with the realities of technology development.

He says: “For many people it sounds random that you would move from literature and film to artificial intelligence. But actually it’s not so far a stretch as some people might imagine.

“The AI Narratives Project shows how the two can influence each other – how literature can influence science and vice versa – but also how critical strategies we use in the humanities can be applied to both understand and influence how we develop new technologies.”

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