The AI + Society Initiative is a research program that aims at defining problems and identifying solutions to essential issues related to ethical AI and technology development. The research leverages a transdisciplinary approach to advance AI methods and tools, with a focus on their responsible applications.

The AI + Society Initiative promotes an inclusive research agenda with a specific focus on amplifying voices and research that does not perpetuate systems of injustice and oppression for affected communities. The research and conversations we aim to highlight focus on the inclusion of voices and perspectives of women, youth, seniors, Indigenous People, LGBTQIA2S+, racialized communities, people with disabilities, and linguistic minorities–and those at the intersection of these identities.

The rapid pace of AI development adds to the challenges facing modern societies and their citizens, simultaneously raising multiple ethical, legal, and policy issues. This requires a better understanding of the societal implications of AI.

Thanks to a generous gift from Scotiabank, the Initiative was announced on January 28th, 2020, with the creation of the Scotiabank Fund for the AI + Society Initiative at the University of Ottawa to support the development of a Canadian AI + Society Initiative, leading to a better understanding and framing of the ethical, legal, and societal implications of AI research and its uses. The Scotiabank Fund supports two research programs on AI and Inclusion, and AI and Regulation. In Summer 2020, the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue funded a new research program on AI for Healthy Humans and Environments that lead to the creation of two additional research streams on AI and Healthcare and AI and Environment. 

The research program is organized in four streams:

  • AI + Inclusion, designing ethical and inclusive AI systems for the benefits of Canada and the World
  • AI + Regulation, shaping global AI regulation to build a secure and resilient society
  • AI + Health, designing policy frameworks for the future of healthcare
  • AI + Environment, shaping inclusive policy frameworks for the future of environment

Incubated at the University of Ottawa Centre for Law, Technology and Society, the initiative builds on 20 years of award-winning research at Canada’s leading research hub for law, ethics and policy surrounding technology that operates in an interdisciplinary setting and includes researchers from the Faculties of Law, Social Sciences, Arts, and Engineering with more than 150 researchers and students at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Beyond the Centre for Law, Technology and Society, the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue’s Project on AI for Healthy Humans and Environment brings forth the expertise of the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics, the Institute for Science, Society and Policy, as well as a network of leading experts from the Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability, the LIFE Institute, the Centre for Governance, and the Centre for Public Law.