How is artificial intelligence (AI) shaping our world? Is it a threat to our jobs? And can it improve human rights?
These questions and more were posed by Professor Lyria Bennett Moses last week at an inaugural event for the UNSW Faculty of Engineering Thought Leadership series, ‘Engineering the Future: Q&AI’. 
The panel, which included Scientia Professor Toby Walsh, Human Rights Commissioner Ed Santow and Telstra CFO Robyn Denholm, was facilitated by Professor Bennett Moses. 
In her introductory speech, the Director of the Allen’s Hub for Technology, Law and Innovation, acknowledged the increased exploration of AI at a cross-disciplinary level. 
“Artificial intelligence when I was at university ... was a pretty small discipline hovering somewhere deep, very deep, in the Computer Science Faculty. It certainly wasn’t something that people really spoke about outside of that,” Professor Bennett Moses said.
“It’s changed, I think it would be fair to say. There are many conversations now about the kinds of ethical questions that arise, with committees, institutions and so forth, being created to come up with principles by which it should be governed. 
“There are important questions for human rights.”
Professor Bennett Moses continued to highlight how AI has opened a debate, particularly within her realm of law. 
“People in law are interested in [AI], not only because of those governance questions, but because in legal practice increasingly, these tools are being used to play the kinds of roles that junior lawyers used to play.”
She also pondered how AI can be used in a prejudiced way to target particular groups, such as Indigenous communities, based on crime statistics that are inherently biased against them.
“The topic of artificial intelligence is really an important one,” she said.
“I think it is really important to think about the kinds of implications that AI will have on communities that tend to be sorted by systems as more likely to be criminal, more likely to be high risk in various circumstances, and the way that will play out.”
Professor Bennett Moses closed her introduction by asking the audience about the role AI already plays in society – where it is headed, and whether its future is one that should be celebrated or viewed with caution.
“It is not just at the theory level but at the hip-pocket level if you like. AI is playing an increasingly important role that I think everyone is interested in.” 
“I am coming from outside. I am not an engineer, but this is my opportunity and hopefully yours to ask the real experts: what are the important questions in artificial intelligence? What role does it play in improving our lives? And what are the potential risks?”

Chloe Watson