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Maxwell School and Newhouse School

University Leaders Launch AI Academic Alliance, Convene AI Symposium in Washington

October 26, 2023

SU News

Two Syracuse University institutes are welcoming researchers, academic leaders, policymakers and journalists for discussions in Washington, D.C., about innovations, vulnerabilities and the future of artificial intelligence.

The two-day AI Policy Symposium that begins Thursday in the nation’s capital is organized by the Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship (IDJC) and the Autonomous Systems Policy Institute (ASPI).

The event also serves as the venue to launch the Academic Alliance for AI Policy, an academic advisory body formed to serve as a resource for lawmakers, policymakers and others seeking to regulate and better understand AI.

“AI is affecting more and more aspects of daily life in America and beyond,” says Hamid Ekbia, director of ASPI and a University Professor. He will lead the alliance.

“Unlike the early decades of its development, when it was the intellectual curiosity of a small number of academics, AI is nobody’s monopoly anymore,” Ekbia says. “If there is a benefit from AI, it should apply to everyone, and if there is harm, someone should be held accountable. This needs oversight and regulation.”

The new alliance and AI policy will be the focus of discussions Thursday at the symposium. How AI will affect the future of work, and its impact on the 2024 presidential election are topics to be discussed Friday.

“Connecting top AI researchers with policymakers and journalists thinking about AI regulation and impacts on society is key to informing regulation, news coverage and the public’s understanding of these emerging issues,” says Margaret Talev, Kramer Director of the Washington-based IDJC. “The symposium also is an opportunity to bring journalists from a range of news organizations together as they navigate coverage and use of AI.”

Still in formation, the alliance will be comprised of academic leaders representing K-12 schools, community colleges and research universities. It is guided by a steering committee that includes representatives from Cornell University, Duke University, Indiana University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, The Ohio State University, the University of California and the University of Illinois.

Joining Ekbia in representing Syracuse is Delali Kumavie, assistant professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Ekbia, who joined the University in January 2023, says the alliance will serve as a platform for the exchange of ideas among academics from various backgrounds and as an advisory body for lawmakers as they grapple with the increasing number of challenges arising from AI.

The alliance will also connect AI experts with journalists reporting on related issues to help distill the implications for greater public understanding.

Ekbia says the regulation of AI in the U.S. is lagging and has enabled rampant gaps in information, knowledge and accountability. This, he says, has allowed the economic agendas of a few to take priority over public interest. “Academics can, and should, help correct this state of affairs,” adds Ekbia. “The Academic Alliance for AI Policy is a step in that direction.”

Based at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, ASPI is a Universitywide initiative focused on the intersection of technology, policy and society that boasts dozens of affiliated faculty researchers across disciplines.

The IDJC engages in nonpartisan research, teaching and public dialogue aimed at strengthening trust in news media, governance and society. It is a joint initiative of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Maxwell School.

In addition to the symposium, the institutes are co-sponsors of the Axios-Generation Lab-Syracuse University AI Experts Survey. The initial results released in September found that a majority of computer science experts at top U.S. research universities wanted to see the creation of a new federal agency or global organization to govern artificial intelligence. The next wave of findings is to be released in November.

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