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U Receives $100 Million for Responsible AI Initiative

The initiative will focus on addressing challenges as artificial intelligence develops.
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Madelyn Foulger
(Design by Madelyn Foulger | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

The University of Utah recently received a $100 million investment for a new initiative on responsible artificial intelligence. Led by the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, this initiative will focus on improving aspects of civil rights, privacy and civil liberties. It will also be used to address important challenges in the community including sustainability, health, society, teaching and learning.

What is responsible AI?

Manish Parashar, director of the SCI Institute, said responsible AI is the simultaneous recognition of both the importance of AI in tackling societal and environmental challenges as well as understanding and getting rid of the issues this technology poses.

“However, AI has many important challenges around areas of bias, fairness, ethics and responsibility,” Parashar said. “We started thinking about how we can leverage this technology in a responsible way that considers these aspects while simultaneously addressing important challenges to our region.”

For example, Parashar brought up the possibility of using AI to tackle mental health crises. He said AI can gather and analyze data to vastly improve an individual’s mental health, but that this project will inevitably raise issues of bias and privacy. The purpose of the Responsible AI Initiative is to solve these problems.

“Think of the issues of mental health … There are many dimensions to the issue, including lifestyle and behavior, and previous life incidences,” Parashar said. “AI allows us to take our understanding of these different modalities and use them collectively to address the problem. But you also want to make sure it’s doing it in a fair way so that it respects privacy and is not biased.”

Why is the Responsible AI Initiative important?

“AI is a rapidly growing industry that will soon be involved in every aspect of our lives,” said James Anderson, researcher at the U’s musculoskeletal research laboratory. “Even though I’m in biomedical engineering, AI is already becoming a big part of my department.”

Whether it’s at work or home, for an individual or for a community, AI has the “potential to transform lives,” Parashar said.

As an example, he brought up the issue of environmental sustainability surrounding wildfires in Utah. He said AI has the potential to mitigate fire damage by combining data from the past and present to create the best plan of action.

“You can use a combination of architectural aspects when fire intensifies, smoke behavior and local temperature, combine these together and find which area the fire will impact the most and how to address it,” he said. “The potential with responsible AI is to minimize impact, create the right early warning systems, and know what resources will be impacted the most quickly so we can tackle the problem early on and efficiently.”

Who will be involved?

Parashar said the initiative is a huge project that will involve experts in multiple fields of work. These experts will work together with students and the community to create efficient and responsible AI to address important challenges.

“We will bring in the best experts as visitors, faculty and researchers,” Parashar said. “They will create structures for the students in different academic units and work as a team to address a problem.”

Parashar said the initiative is geared towards the population as a whole, and he wants everyone to have the opportunity to contribute.

For students wanting to be involved in the research, Parashar said “stay tuned”.

 

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@jamie_k_faux

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About the Contributors
Jamie Faux, News Writer
(she/her) Jamie Faux began as a news reporter at the Daily Utah Chronicle in the summer of 2023. She is a double major in English and finance at the University of Utah with the goal of becoming an author after graduation. Jamie grew up in Provo and enjoys outdoor sports, reading, and traveling.
Madelyn Foulger, Social Media Manager, Design Contributer
Madelyn started at the Chronicle in 2022 as a social media contributor and designer before becoming Social Media Manager in May 2023. She's majoring in film and media arts with a minor in human rights and resources. Madelyn enjoys various creative pursuits, including writing, illustration, design, film, and photography.

Comments (1)

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  • J

    John HedbergNov 26, 2023 at 1:04 pm

    AI is like a snowball at the top of a ski slope. Once it starts rolling downhill, it gathers mass and momentum and gets harder and harder to deflect or control. The number of books and movies which address and explore a self-contained technology which gets out of control are so numerous, there’s nothing more I can say that hasn’t been said, kind of like mixing alcohol with hormones or with driving. We already know where this will lead us, but we still take that first drink thinking, “I know my limits, and now that I know, nothing bad is going to happen this time”. Famous last words~! 😂

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