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The Ethics of Artificially Intelligent Communications Technology

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Hey Siri, how should I vote in the next national election?

Using manifesto promises and gathered data, Siri could determine which party championed her owner’s core socio-political and economic values –- or, alternatively, she could simply name the party offering the most enticing tax breaks to the secretive corporation that created her. And if her response were based on a covert pre-programmed agenda such as the latter, who would know?

Automated conversational agents are prototypical examples of Artificially Intelligent Communications Technology (AICT), and such systems make extensive use of speech technology, natural language processing, smart telecommunications, and social media. AICT is already rapidly transforming our society by enabling unprecedentedly swift and diffuse language-based interactions. Therefore, while AICT can greatly facilitate communication and information retrieval, it also offers opportunities for distortion and deception. Unbalanced data sets can covertly reinforce problematical social biases, while microtargeted messaging and the distribution of malinformation can be used for malicious purposes.

This talk will consider the social impact of some of these systems, and, by so doing, it will seek to motivate the need for designing AICT systems that are more ethical and trustworthy.

Speaker Bio

Dr Marcus Tomalin has been a member of the Machine Intelligence Laboratory in the Engineering Department since the late 1990s, where he has been involved in developing a wide range of speech recognition, speech synthesis, and machine translation systems. In addition, he is a member of the Philosophy Faculty, and he has research interests in the ethics of technology and the philosophy of language.

This talk is part of the NLIP Seminar Series series.

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