The ILPC Seminar Series

‘AI and the Humanities: Transforming Society’

2022 and 2023 saw the Information Law & Policy Centre (ILPC), one of the academic centres of IALS and SAS, hosting and organising both online and in-person themed events, workshops, and publications as part of the ILPC Series on ‘AI and Humanities: Transforming Society’. 

In line with the IALS and SAS Strategy and Research, Promotion, and Facilitation (RPF) aims, these seminars explore the societal impacts of AI-based technologies and systems and the role of the humanities and social sciences in providing key insights and enabling an open dialogue on these important and complex issues with the public. This international, cross-disciplinary, and cross-sector series has brought together experts from across academia, policymaking, civil society, and industry. It focuses on topics of public interest addressing the theme of what it means to be human in a world being redefined by cutting-edge developments and emerging technologies in AI and digital policymaking.

With its Director Dr Nora Ni Loideain as chair and moderator, these seminars have explored topics including: the accountability and law of AI-based decision making and tools for policing, education, and commercial uses, data ethics, AI and de-colonisation, AI and the proposed EU AI Act, disinformation, human rights, and online safety. Forthcoming events as part of the series include: ‘Toward a Global Index for Measuring the State of Responsible AI’. For further details and to attend (registration is free), see here

The first event to launch the ILPC AI and Humanities Seminar Series in 2022 was entitled: How to Regulate High-Risk AI and the EU AI Act’. In this seminar, Professor Lilian Edwards (Chair in Law, Innovation and Society, Newcastle University and Alan Turing Fellow) presented and discuss her recent work on the EU AI Act in her then role as Expert Legal Advisor to the Ada Lovelace Institute. The Ada Lovelace Institute (Ada) was established by the Nuffield Foundation in 2018 and is an independent research and deliberative body with a mission to ensure data and AI work for people and society. Dr Petra Molnar (York University, Canada) was the discussant for this seminar and also highlighted the implications of the EU AI Act for automated profiling system and surveillance within the context of immigration. See a video of this online seminar here

In the second seminar of the series, ‘Computer Says No! Fair and Accountable Decisions in an Automated World’, Dr Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna presented and discussed key findings from a recent Report by the US NGO Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) on automated decision-making under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (co-authored by Sebastião Barros Vale and Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna). The report explores how Courts and data protection authorities across Europe and the UK have applied the GDPR (particularly Article 22) and protected human rights in specific sectors, including employment and payment in the gig economy, live facial recognition and profiling in schools, and credit scoring matters. Dr Zanfir-Fortuna is Vice President for Global Privacy for the Washington DC-based Future of Privacy Forum and leads their work on global privacy developments including de-identification, AI, mobility, adtech and education. Dr Jedrzej Niklas, Research Associate at the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff University and Research Fellow at the Polish Academy of Science was the seminar’s discussant and addressed the governance of AI emerging technologies and their implications for social justice. See a video of this online seminar here.

In March 2023, lead speaker Dr Rachel Adams (Principal Researcher, ICT Africa), and discussants, Dr Christopher Ohge (Institute of English Studies, SAS) and Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan (Department of Media Studies, University of Virginia), shared their expertise and insights with us at a timely seminar on the impact of AI ethics governance for post-colonial places and people: ‘The Empire of AI and AI Ethics Governance’. Dr Adams is also a member of the UNESCO Expert Committee for the implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and an Associate Fellow of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge. She currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the South African Journal on Human Rights. See a video of this online seminar here.

Also in 2023, the ILPC was delighted to co-host with Dr Edina Harbinja (Aston University) a two-day international and multi-disciplinary in-person public seminar and workshop bringing together experts from across academia, industry, policymaking, and civil society, who critically examined and discussed recent developments to the UK Online Safety Bill. The House of Lords in 2023 debated and reviewed the Online Safety Bill which would establish a regulatory framework for certain online services. These include user-to-user services, such as Facebook, and search services, such as Google. The government’s aim in introducing the bill is ‘to make Britain the best place in the world to set up and run a digital business, while simultaneously ensuring that Britain is the safest place in the world to be online.’ The ‘Making “Digital Streets” Safe? Progress on the Online Safety Bill’ workshop (IALS and the House of Lords) addressed the development and future of these developments for regulation, policymaking, and governance within the UK and internationally. Speakers included: Baroness Stowell of Beeston MBE (House of Lords), Mark Johnson (Big Brother Watch), Graham Smith (Bird & Bird), and Professor Lorna Woods OBE (University of Essex). For further details, see here.

Huge thanks are due to Daly Sarcos (SAS Events Team) and Shrutika Gandhi (ILPC Communications Officer) for their invaluable assistance and support in organising and promoting these events and activities. The series is supported by funding awarded from the School of Advanced Studies (SAS) and Research England Fund. For further details on the series, please see the ILPC, IALS, and SAS websites.