Iyad Rahwan

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Renowned Computer Scientist and Developer of AI Technology; Expert on the Ethics and Impact of AI and Social Media on Society, Government and Future of Work; Thinkers50 Radar Class of 2020; Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Biography

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and robotics are emerging rapidly, impacting institutions and values without warning. Iyad Rahwan is one of the foremost developers of AI and computer technology. But he goes much further than the technical aspects: he is also a leading authority on the high-level implications of AI and social media on society, the future of work and government. An esteemed researcher and professor, as well a highly engaging and articulate orator, his expertise serves two important overarching purposes: to make sense of the vague but undeniable changes being wrought by current technology, and help organizations channel it into constructive and profitable gains that help rather than undermine the common good.

Rahwan, who serves as the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, offers organizations a new perspective for understanding how AI is impacting every industry and human endeavor. An expert on AI and the future of work recently named to the Thinkers50 Radar Class of 2020, Rahwan argues that automation will not eliminate jobs as much as the need for certain skills. His framework outlines a strategic map for evaluating the skills that will most and least likely be automated. Rahwan also explores the more controversial uses of AI as it enables greater violations of trust on social media through promotion of “fake news.” He anticipates a traditional “mainstream” media shift, which will become more important in a world where the line between fact and fiction is increasingly blurred.

Rahwan’s latest research focuses on how AI developers are ignoring the role of ethics at the risk of imperiling society. To demonstrate how immorality can shape technology, he and a team designed a “psychopathic” algorithm named Norman. Trained on a deep learning method that exposed him to only violent images, Norman demonstrated psychological traits closely associated with human psychopaths. The potential of machines to think and act immorally compels us to consider what moral sensibilities we program into them, particularly as we delegate more of our own responsibilities to AI, such as relying on autonomous vehicles for transportation. We will be forging a new “social contract” with technology that will require us to take a closer interest in what motives machines have in making decisions on our behalf. To this end, Rahwan’s Scalable Cooperation Group has produced an interactive test called “The Moral Machine,” which requires test-takers to confront and reflect upon their own innate biases in determining how self-driving cars should operate in the event of ethical dilemmas (you can explore how your country ranks in a variety of moral decisions here).

Rahwan, who is a native of Aleppo, Syria, holds a doctorate from the University of Melbourne, Australia. His work has appeared in major academic journals, including Science and PNAS. Rahwan’s research and writing is regularly featured in major media outlets, including The New York Times, The Economist and The Wall Street Journal.

Iyad Rahwan is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Media

Job Connectivity Improves Resiliency in US Cities, Study Finds

April 13, 2021

Wall Street Journal

Self-Driving Cars Could Save Many Lives. But Mental Roadblocks Stand in the Way.

April 6, 2021

Could a Small City Become the Next Silicon Valley? It's Unlikely

September 3, 2020

We Can Make Surveillance Work for Us

June 26, 2020

Ethics, Efficiency and Artificial Intelligence

January 30, 2020

The Anthropologist of Artificial Intelligence

August 26, 2019

AI and the Social Sciences Used to Talk More. Now They've Drifted Apart.

July 1, 2019

Artificial Intelligence Is Now Far Too Big To Be Limited To Computer Science

May 31, 2019

Techworld logo

MIT Professor Calls for Multi-Disciplinary "Machine Behavior" Research to Address AI Fears

May 7, 2019

It's Time to Study Machine Behaviour Across Disciplines, Finds MIT Paper

April 29, 2019

MIT Technology Review logo

AI Researchers Want to Study AI the Same Way Social Scientists Study Humans

April 29, 2019

The New Yorker logo

A Study on Driverless-Car Ethics Offers a Troubling Look Into Our Values

January 24, 2019

Beware Corporate 'Machinewashing' of AI

January 7, 2019

How Much Does Your Life Matter to a Self-Driving Car?

December 5, 2018

Why We Need to Audit Algorithms

November 28, 2018

Self-Driving Car Dilemmas Reveal That Moral Choices Are Not Universal

October 24, 2018

Stern Strategy Group

Making Sense of the Ethics and Impact of AI

September 26, 2018

MIT Scientists Unveil First Psychopath AI, 'Norman'

June 7, 2018

The Economist logo

To Understand Digital Advertising, Study Its Algorithms

March 22, 2018

Whose Life Should Your Car Save?

November 3, 2016

The Atlantic logo

The Nightmare Machine

October 24, 2016

Should Your Driverless Car Hit a Pedestrian to Save Your Life?

June 23, 2016

A-Z Name

Rahwan, Iyad

Biography

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and robotics are emerging rapidly, impacting institutions and values without warning. Iyad Rahwan is one of the foremost developers of AI and computer technology. But he goes much further than the technical aspects: he is also a leading authority on the high-level implications of AI and social media on society, the future of work and government. An esteemed researcher and professor, as well a highly engaging and articulate orator, his expertise serves two important overarching purposes: to make sense of the vague but undeniable changes being wrought by current technology, and help organizations channel it into constructive and profitable gains that help rather than undermine the common good.

Rahwan, who serves as the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, offers organizations a new perspective for understanding how AI is impacting every industry and human endeavor. An expert on AI and the future of work recently named to the Thinkers50 Radar Class of 2020, Rahwan argues that automation will not eliminate jobs as much as the need for certain skills. His framework outlines a strategic map for evaluating the skills that will most and least likely be automated. Rahwan also explores the more controversial uses of AI as it enables greater violations of trust on social media through promotion of “fake news.” He anticipates a traditional “mainstream” media shift, which will become more important in a world where the line between fact and fiction is increasingly blurred.

Rahwan’s latest research focuses on how AI developers are ignoring the role of ethics at the risk of imperiling society. To demonstrate how immorality can shape technology, he and a team designed a “psychopathic” algorithm named Norman. Trained on a deep learning method that exposed him to only violent images, Norman demonstrated psychological traits closely associated with human psychopaths. The potential of machines to think and act immorally compels us to consider what moral sensibilities we program into them, particularly as we delegate more of our own responsibilities to AI, such as relying on autonomous vehicles for transportation. We will be forging a new “social contract” with technology that will require us to take a closer interest in what motives machines have in making decisions on our behalf. To this end, Rahwan’s Scalable Cooperation Group has produced an interactive test called “The Moral Machine,” which requires test-takers to confront and reflect upon their own innate biases in determining how self-driving cars should operate in the event of ethical dilemmas (you can explore how your country ranks in a variety of moral decisions here).

Rahwan, who is a native of Aleppo, Syria, holds a doctorate from the University of Melbourne, Australia. His work has appeared in major academic journals, including Science and PNAS. Rahwan’s research and writing is regularly featured in major media outlets, including The New York Times, The Economist and The Wall Street Journal.

Iyad Rahwan is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

For a more in-depth understanding of these topics, book a confidential advisory meeting or interactive workshop with Iyad Rahwan

Gaining Insight Into AI: A New Perspective for Business and Society

How can we reap the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) while minimizing the risks it poses to society? Iyad Rahwan argues we already have many of the institutional tools needed to regulate AI. But some aspects are very different, requiring fundamentally new approaches to the study of machine behavior and the certification of AI systems. In this presentation, he offers a new way of thinking about AI. To effectively regulate intelligent machines, we need to look at them as a new species and appreciate the ways in which they can autonomously impact humans in unexpected ways. Rahwan shows how businesses and policymakers can adapt their thinking to the new realities of AI, and develop updated rules and guidelines that recognize that they are now dealing with something unlike anything they experienced before.

New Tools for Anticipating Artificial Intelligence, Automation and the Future of Work

As advances in robotics and artificial intelligence revive concerns about the impact of automation on jobs, a question looms: How will automation affect employment in different jobs, cities and economies? Iyad Rahwan discusses major challenges facing decision-makers as they plan their response to the changing nature of work. He also presents novel tools and visualizations that enable organizations to understand the nature of work and the potential for human-machine symbiosis.

The Ethical Dilemmas of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems, such as autonomous vehicles, promise to revolutionize society. But they also made salient an ethical question: How should an algorithm decide relative risk in situations of unavoidable harm? Iyad Rahwan presents a series of psychological studies that explore how people think about AI ethics and discusses the regulatory challenges these studies reveal. He also describes a crowdsourcing effort that engaged tens of millions of people worldwide with the ethical questions facing AI users and regulators.

Leveraging Social Media to Encourage Extreme Cooperation

The internet and social media have revolutionized our ability to cooperate at scale. Iyad Rahwan explores the physical and cognitive limits of crowds by following real-world experiments that utilized social media to mobilize the masses in tasks of unprecedented complexity. From finding people in remote cities, to reconstructing shredded documents, to canvassing an entire continent in search of balloons, the power of crowdsourcing is real. So are the exploitation, sabotage and hidden biases that undermine that power. To effectively leverage social media, we need to understand both the wisdom and madness of crowds. In this presentation, Rahwan shows how to harness collective efforts for constructive purposes – and combat malicious manipulation that can turn loose the fury of the mob.

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