Gheorghe Comanici, a research scientist at DeepMind, explains why he decided to get personally involved with the Lab, and why the diversity of experiences is a great necessity in artificial intelligence (AI).
How does DeepMind contribute to a better society?
DeepMind has a division dedicated to ethical and responsible issues that can be solved by AI: Ethics & Society. We created this branch because we believe that artificial intelligence can be an extraordinary benefit to the whole world, but only if it is held to the highest ethical standards. We are committed to in-depth research on ethical and social issues, the inclusion of all voices and ongoing critical reflection. As scientists working in this field, we have a responsibility to find solutions to the most difficult issues, such as climate change and universal health care coverage.
Why did you decide to get involved with the Lab?
Professor Doina Precup, the co-founder of the lab, is also the research lead for the Montreal DeepMind group, of which I am part of. When she reached out to me to help with this new initiative, of course I immediately said yes. Projects like this are extremely necessary and I have always wanted to contribute to them as much as possible.
Putting students from completely different disciplines together offers multiple perspectives on the problems encountered in artificial intelligence, which is extremely rare in our daily work.
These students have not been in the industry for a very long time, sometimes even for a very short time, even though they have a very strong interest in the discipline. By putting us in contact with people who have a different reality from ours, we allow ourselves to solve problems in a different way, but also to think about different issues.
Successfully establishing new ways of using AI to solve problems is a very difficult task and it is wonderful that these students are addressing these issues. Obviously, it is also essential to have more women and diversity in the male-dominated industry. Currently, the industry is limited because it does not represent all perspectives. We are also very biased and we have to fight this. The Lab is a great opportunity to provide different perspectives to AI.
Is it a good idea to create a group composed exclusively of women?
The format of the Lab is fantastic. The fact that it is exclusively dedicated to women gives them a safe space where they feel included and allows them to express themselves freely. There are many studies on the impact of mixed learning sites on minorities, such as women in AI. Women explain that these environments can be intimidating. They do not necessarily feel that they are part of a group where the comparison with others and the spirit of competitiveness is sometimes toxic. The Lab is a safe place where they can thrive and learn.