$1 million investment allows for ethical AI research at UT

Rylie Lillibridge, News Reporter

A recent $1 million investment to UT from a nonprofit has sparked a new partnership that ensures more developments can be made in ethical applications of artificial intelligence. 

The MITRE Corporation made the investment to Good Systems, an eight-year research grand challenge consisting of 150 members from over 30 departments at UT, said founding chair Kenneth Fleischmann. The grand challenge focuses on researching a variety of applications of artificial intelligence, such as fighting disinformation, preventing biased algorithms and developing smart cities, he said. 

“(AI) has the potential, if designed properly … to lead to a better, more equitable, more just society,” said Fleischmann, a professor in the School of Information. “But it also — whether it’s out of neglect or malice — has the potential to create new injustices in society or to exacerbate existing inequities and injustices.”

River Terrell, a summer intern for the computational media lab and a community engagement team member, said it is important to research artificial intelligence because it is becoming integral to everyday life. 

“It’s not a field that is at all going away,” biology senior Terrell said. “(AI) affects us day to day, and I don’t think everyone realizes that. It’s everywhere, and being able to know how it works,  what it does and how we can improve it and use it to solve real-world problems is really important.”

MITRE Corporation’s investment will allow Good Systems to continue making progress in their six core research projects for the five remaining years of the grand challenge, Fleischmann said. Those six projects include designing AI that is racially equitable and responsible, among other projects related to ethical AI functions, according to Fleischmann. 

Terrell said the funding will allow researchers to better promote their platforms and tools such as CoVerifi, a fact-checking platform for COVID-19 information that is now in the process of expanding to cover information about monkeypox.

“Both MITRE and Good Systems are committed to ensuring that artificial intelligence-based systems serve the public interest,” Fleischmann said. “This gift is the beginning of an important, far-reaching relationship between MITRE and Good Systems, as well as between MITRE and the University of Texas at Austin broadly.”