With help from Derek Robertson
As leaders argued over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations in New York this weekCynthia Breazeal, dean for digital learning at MIT and director of MIT RAISE, came to town with a different mission: to change mindsets about AI and robots.
It’s an area dominated by discussions of efficiency and cost-cutting, and a controversial one due to the job losses and surveillance implications of the technology.
Breazeal is a tech evangelist of a different kind, using the carnival of the United Nations General Assembly to preach about “design justice” and “AI that helps promote human flourishing.” And she wants your kids to use AI both in and out of school.
In his researchAI is a potential savior for children whose school trajectories have been skewed by Covid, including refugees or children with disabilities not supported by school systems.
The numbers that need support are huge. there is around 36 million displaced children worldwideand around the world “80% of children with intellectual disabilities do not go to school,” Tim Shriver, president of Special Olympics, told me.
As the United Nations predicts a global teacher shortage about 70 million by 2030supposedly Social assistance robots – which aim to interact with people in emotional or intellectually useful ways – may be among the most viable ways to help these groups grow and catch up with their peers.
UN Office of Innovation worries about ‘AI generation’ – officials say national AI strategies, where they exist, barely mention children. If the AI is biased and embeds this bias in people from an early age, it is unclear who is responsible or how it can be undone, for example.
How do you test AI with children? “We actually teach the teacher and parents enough about AI, that it’s not that scary,” Breazeal said of plans for a pilot project in Clarkston, Georgia. “South Ellis Island”.
“We want to be very clear about the role of the robot in relation to the community, of which this robot is a part. All of our data that we collect is protected and encrypted.
How are parents and teachers reacting to the role of a robot in their children’s lives? “It’s not about replacing people at all, it’s about augmenting human networks,” Breazeal said, “It’s not about a robot tutor, where teachers want to compete with the robot “, she said.
Breazeal said the children she studied “don’t confuse these robots with a dog or a person, they see it as its own type of entity, almost”like a Disney sidekick who plays games with you, like a peer.“
What works with children in need could also be leveraged for other age groups and communities. “A big part of this project is to provide ethical frameworks and processes that go beyond the specifics of this particular case study,” Breazeal said.
While new technologies like blockchain and immersive and networked virtual reality are beginning to transform the digital landscape, veterans of the current digital governance regime are beginning to reflect on their broader impact.
During a panel yesterday organized by the McCourt Institute titled “Digital Governance and the State of Democracy: Why Does It Matter?” a group including Erik Brynjolfsson of Stanford, Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser and Maggie Little of the Georgetown Ethics Lab met to discuss it. The main point of consensus: everything we did last time didn’t work.
“We’ve built a system that, not by design, but by effect, amplifies the most primitive parts of our brains,” Brynjolfsson said. “It’s not the part that created the civilization we want.”
Pariser proposed a more radically audience-oriented conception of digital spaces than the world has seen in recent years, saying, “I think we live in an essentially autocratic digital environment. Yes, you can participate, you can post a tweet, but if you want to change how Twitter works, you have to have $50 billion, or it’s one person, ultimately; there are like five guys who ultimately make all the decisions about how these systems work.
“If people don’t feel like they have meaningful power over their environment, they start to back down or look for someone powerful enough to break through,” he added. “Like Elon.” — Derek Robertson
Divisions within the Democratic Party over crypto policy begin to take shape.
A bill introduced last month to the Senate Agriculture Committee that would place crypto regulation under the jurisdiction of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, widely seen as more favorable than the SEC alternative, has won both a notable supporter and detractor. As POLITICO’s Sam Sutton first reported in today’s morning money, sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, said when asked about the bill that his committee has a “healthier skepticism” about crypto than its agricultural counterpart.
Meanwhile, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.) agreed to introduce the bill’s counterpart to the House, saying in a statement that it will provide “regulatory clarity” and “give consumers the information they need to take sound decisions”. That echoes the slightly defensive tone of CFTC Chairman Rostin Behnam, who said during a Senate committee hearing on the bill last week that the commission “brought nearly 60 enforcement-related cases digital assets, including a recent case involving a $1.7 billion bitcoin fraud scheme” since 2014, and that the bill would allow it to exercise its “full unrestricted surveillance capabilities.”
Among the most prominent members of the Senate Banking Committee are Brown and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), two of the Senate’s most vocal consumer watchdogs and standard-bearer for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party — unlike Maloney, a moderate member of the New Democratic Coalition. It’s still too early (and early) to label either wing of the party as reflexively anti- or pro-crypto, respectively, but the emerging alignment around the Stabenow-Boozman bill is certainly a data point in its favor. — Derek Robertson
Stay in touch with the whole team: Ben Schrecker ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Constantin Kakaes ([email protected]); and Heidi Vogt ([email protected]). Follow us @DigitalFuture on Twitter.