New Artificial Intelligence Research Institute Launches

First of Its Kind Dedicated to the Study of Social Implications of AI

Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker speaking at a podium

Tandon faculty and founders of AI Now, Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker

On November 15, New York University celebrated the launch of the AI Now Institute, a new research center that will study the social implications of AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning, and algorithmic accountability.

Founded by Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker (the newest faculty members within NYU Tandon’s Department of Technology, Culture and Society), the AI Now Institute aims to address the ever-increasing application of AI technologies and machine learning systems to industries like healthcare and law and to understand how this technology impacts people and their civil rights, the implications of biased data, safety and infrastructure, and labor and automation.

The Institute is the first of its kind, bringing together experts and researchers across computer science, economics, law, academia and other sectors to explore the socially responsible creation and use of AI technologies. It is also the first AI research institute founded and led by women.

“AI technologies have extraordinary potential upsides, from reducing worldwide energy consumption and addressing climate change to a new machine vision system that’s helping us decode ancient languages,” explained Crawford, who is also a principal researcher at Microsoft AI, a Senior Fellow at the NYU Information Law Institute, and a co-founder of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Council for Big Data, Ethics & Society. “But they can also come with real risks, as these technologies flood into our criminal system and our education system and affect such issues as who gets access to insurance, who gets pulled out of line at the airport, and who gets released from jail. The introduction of new and powerful tools is deeply connected to power, and the turn to AI here is no different. We’re standing at an inflection point, where we still have an opportunity to influence the design and use of these tools for good.”

The AI Now Institute will implement an interdisciplinary approach to studying AI technology and its potential risks, partnering with NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering; Stern School of Business; School of Law; Center for Data Science; Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; and Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

At the official launch celebration on November 15, NYU Provost Katherine Fleming welcomed Crawford and Whittaker to the university and emphasized AI Now’s focus on collaborative research and ideas. “AI Now is already creating novel interdisciplinary models that bring experts from across disciplines to the table, which fits into the mission of the university to build knowledge and invent new ways to meet humanity’s challenge. It’s very exciting to see the first women-led AI research institute right here in NYC and at NYU,” Provost Fleming shared with the crowd.

“We’re truly honored that our Institute will be supported across six schools at NYU, which represent a broad coalition across the university community and reflect our shared commitment towards building an interdisciplinary field. We’ve also partnered with the ACLU, alongside other civil society groups, to help us direct our efforts towards understanding the most affected communities and developing strategies that address these concerns right now,” explained Whittaker, founder and lead of Google’s Open Research Group, founder of Measurement Lab, and co-founder of Simply Secure.

Luminaries within AI technology, academia, journalism, and law celebrated the Institute’s launch, including Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar of the California Supreme Court, who touched upon the promises of an AI-oriented future and AI Now’s prescience in addressing both the technical and social challenges it presents. Justice Cuéllar is a member of the AI Now Advisory Board, which also includes Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Nicole Wong, a former deputy chief technology officer (CTO) in the Obama administration; and Cynthia Dwork, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University.

Read the Press Release        

Learn more about the AI Now Institute

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018