The Institute for Experiential AI Paves the Way Toward Eliminating AI Biases

by Anna Fiorentino

Northeastern University Assistant Professor Silvio Amir speaks at a panel about Responsible AI. (Photo by Heratch Ekmekian)

Cutting-edge technologies are finding their way into commercial applications at record speed. But as the gap between machine learning (ML) research and actual deployment shrinks, data scientists are realizing that the state-of-the-art models that work in controlled experiments aren’t always ready for prime time. In the real world, these machine learning models can exploit statistical coincidences in the data that don’t generalize beyond these controlled experiments, capturing and amplifying social biases like negative attitudes about race and gender.

But now, a data scientist named Silvio Amir, a core faculty member at the Institute for Experiential AI, is working to change that.

“These limitations raise broader questions about what it means to assign human values like trust to machines,” says Amir, assistant professor at the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. “How should we design AI systems to improve human life and human intelligence? How can we ensure transparency and accountability in AI systems?”

Amir is posing these questions to the institute’s leaders, who hug the line between AI and ethics. His plan is to eliminate the harmful effects of AI by broadening participation and inclusion during the conceptualization and implementation of AI systems. Through multidisciplinary research projects, he hopes to unite practitioners in various subject matter expertise to introduce responsible AI systems that can enhance the world.

Amir’s undertaking is particularly relevant given that his area of research affects most of us daily. His natural language processing, machine learning, and information retrieval methods for personal and user-generated text appear in social media and electronic health records.

On the new frontier known as experiential AI, Amir says humans will be the ones to guide and validate AI technology and augment these systems so they run accurately and responsibly in the world. And that means putting their trust in data scientists and the institute’s interdisciplinary researchers to provide meaningful solutions that positively impact individuals and society.

“I believe the institute for experiential AI is well-positioned to make this happen and become a leader in this area, given the diversity of its faculty members in complementary disciplines,” says Amir. “That’s critical given the increasingly important role of AI in society.”

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