If you are someone who goes back and forth between excitement over the infinite power of AI and absolute apprehension, then you will want to check out our interview with the incredible Professor Sylvie Delacroix.
Delacroix’s bio in a few words: Delacroix is professor in Law and Ethics at the University of Birmingham in England. Her research focuses on the intersection between law and ethics, with a particular interest in habits and the infrastructure that molds our habits (basically data-reliant tools AKA AI.) She has studied and served as a fellow and a scholar at Harvard and Cambridge (to name a few schools.) She is also a fellow at The Alan Turing Institute. In other words, she is wicked smart. Find out more about Delacroix here and access her book here.
Sylvie said so much great stuff and you should definitely read the full interview transcript or watch the video here but here are some of the highlights.
Professor Sylvie Delacroix critiques prevalent comparisons to nuclear technology, emphasizing that unlike nuclear advancements, AI is intricately tied to data—data sourced from individuals. This underscores the collective responsibility we share in shaping AI's development and potential evolution.
“AI is fascinating in so many ways, but it's also because people focus today a lot on the risks inherent in AI. And there are too many comparisons, for instance, between AI and nuclear technology. And I find this problematic for many reasons. But one of them is that people forget that, unlike nuclear technology, AI is made possible by data. And a lot of this data comes from us. And that means that we, all of us, actually have a role to play in, how AI is developed, and how it can become different. “
On Biden’s Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence
Delacroix argues that introducing regulation through the White House, particularly focusing on military aspects of AI risks, might be criticized for neglecting other crucial aspects. She emphasizes the importance of safeguarding the human right to access culture, knowledge, research, and creative works, highlighting the transformative potential of generative AI.
“It's the only way regulation of this sort could be introduced. And some people have criticized it because they say [the] White House is overly focused on basically the military aspects of risks of AI, at the expense of other risks who have decided that it's important precisely because of the human right to access culture that everybody is able to access, you know, knowledge, research, creative works, art, you name it, without necessarily being behind the payroll. And, that has made possible this fantastic revolution that's happening right now, which is called generative AI.”
Delacroix says there are a lot of parallels between the power of water and data—she has written extensively on the topic— and trying to make both of these ecosystems work for us. Just like we need to empower water-dependent communities, we need to do that for data-dependent communities as well. “That means giving them a say, over how this data is used, for what purposes, etc., So that's one thing that I've spent a lot of time on is this so-called bottom-up empowerment infrastructure.”
Delacroix emphasizes the need for awareness, noting that many people perceive data as abstract without realizing their active involvement in generating and contributing to it daily. She underscores the importance of individuals recognizing their role in the data ecosystem and their capacity to take action. “You have to realize we're having this conversation about data and AI, but I think a lot of people still think of data as a very abstract thing and don't necessarily have any idea that it applies to them, that they are leeching data on a daily basis and that they can do something.”
Everyone is focusing on how AI allows children to produce homework using chatbots, but what about the fact that children can have access to education from anywhere? She also mentioned the medical breakthrough potentials for patients. Using data there can be more predictions on disease prediction. By doctors and patients sharing data with these machine-learning algorithms, they can get more reliable warnings of aggravations and escalations in, for example, patients with Cystic Fibrosis, who are able to use generative AI to better predict when they will experience certain outcomes and better anticipate their needs.
Delacroix suggests that optimism can be constructive if it motivates individuals to connect with others and collectively effect change. She advocates for a bottom-up approach, emphasizing the significance of small, local initiatives—such as book groups or neighborhood activities—as effective means of fostering positive transformation. “It's not necessarily foolish to be optimist. If it gives you the impetus to actually just reach out to other people and see how as a group, you can change things. I think it doesn't have to be grand goals. It can be very local. It can be a book group, you know, a reading group deciding to do something. There's all sorts of groups in our lives, right? Whether it's as a member of a book group, as a neighborhood, etc, etc.,. And so that's how I think we need to think increasingly.”
Watch the rest of the interview here.