Harvard Kennedy School and Bank of America Announce The Council on the Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence

Press Release, Harvard Kennedy School | Apr. 10, 2018

Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Bank of America today announced the formation of The Council on the Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a new effort to address critical questions surrounding this far-reaching and rapidly evolving application for data and technology.

From finance and healthcare to retail and manufacturing, AI is poised to reshape not only the interface between people and machines but also fundamental questions of privacy and equality. The Council’s mission is to ensure that policy and ethical issues keep pace with AI and machine learning so that this game-changing technology serves people–not the other way around.

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning have potential to improve our lives in all sorts of exciting ways,” said Dan Schrag, Co-Director of the Belfer Center’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program. “But there are also risks. The Council will help investigate how to use these technologies in a responsible manner across various domains.”

“It is difficult to overstate AI’s potential impact on society,” said Ash Carter, Director of the Belfer Center and former Secretary of Defense (2015-2017). “The Council will leverage Harvard’s unmatched convening power to help ensure that this impact is overwhelmingly on the side of public good.”

“The Council will engage a spectrum of thought leaders to address the most pressing moral, legal, and ethical questions surrounding the future application of artificial intelligence,” said Cathy Bessant, Bank of America’s Chief Operations and Technology Officer. “As business, public, and private entities rush to realize the efficiencies and effectiveness of AI, we will examine how these benefits are balanced with the human components of AI to determine how best to reskill the workforce for an AI world.”

The Council will convene leaders from groups including government, business, academia, and civil society to learn about the latest technological developments in AI and machine learning, discuss emerging legal, moral, and policy implications, and investigate ways of developing responsible AI platforms. Joining the discussions will be world-renowned experts from Harvard and MIT in fields spanning computer science, national security, cybersecurity, technology, natural science, economics, and government. Participants will address pressing issues, including:

  • Privacy: How can the private and public sectors benefit from new advances in machine learning of large data sets without compromising concerns for privacy?
  • Rights, Justice, and Equality: How do we conceive of human rights online? Whose responsibility is it to ensure that algorithms respect these rights? How does artificial intelligence threaten or aid the equality of different groups?
  • Transparency: How is AI architected and deployed with trust by design, including building systems that lead to “explainable” AI?
  • Workforce: How do we democratize AI learning across an enterprise’s stakeholders; emphasizing augmentation vs. replacement; reskilling the workforce that is displaced by AI?

Through rigorous research, the development of best practices, and an open and transparent dialogue, the founding members of the Council seek to realize AI’s positive potential for all consumers who can benefit from the speed, convenience, and thoughtful use of these emerging technologies.

As the founding donor, Bank of America is supporting the work of the new Council for an initial three-year period. Faculty, researchers, and staff at Harvard Kennedy School will establish the Council’s research agenda, and administer all other components of the program, which will be housed at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and will work with digital HKS, a school-wide initiative focused on research and education on digital technology policy.