NRT-AI: Convergent, Responsible, and Ethical Artificial Intelligence Training Experience
Given the potentially disruptive consequences of artificial intelligence (AI)-based systems, humanity cannot afford to wait until problems arise to consider their impacts on society. AI’s ethical and societal implications must be considered as systems are designed, developed, and deployed. The increasingly ubiquitous adoption of AI in homes and cities is poised to transform our society. However, it remains an open question whether this technology will develop in a way that increases the divide between haves and have-nots or results in a more just and equitable society. Thus, there is a need for convergent STEM graduate education to ensure that future AI researchers and scientists are prepared to consider ethical implications of AI technology and build a more just and equitable future for everyone.
This National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) award to the University of Texas at Austin will address the challenge of integrating responsible and ethical AI at all stages of development, design, and deployment of AI technologies. The NRT program will integrate ethical AI education, research, and career development. The program will train 32 funded trainees and 150 additional graduate students from the Departments of Aerospace, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, and Schools of Architecture, and Information.
This Ethical AI program will train future AI researchers who:
- understand the ethical implications of AI technologies and can develop new theories, methods, and techniques to satisfy ethical requirements;
- design human-centered ethical AI technologies that respect human autonomy and ethical values; and
- develop robotics policy informed by cutting edge convergent research.
This program includes six elements: coursework, research opportunities, mentorship, professional development, internships, and public service. Interdisciplinary coursework will include five new courses, four of which are foundation courses, and a project-based capstone course.
Trainees will engage in different research projects across Ethical AI, Robotics, Smart City, Informatics etc. Two faculty members will mentor each trainee over the five years of the program, with at least one mentor external to the student’s home department. Mentors and students will develop personalized individual development plans (IDPs) in the students’ first year as trainees. They will revise these IDPs each semester in subsequent years of the program. The trainees will also participate in ten hours of career development workshops every semester on topics including article publication and grant-writing, startups and industry opportunities, and career planning. Trainees will enhance their education with internships at a private company, government, or non-profit organization. Finally, NRT trainees will spend about one day per month volunteering for a local government program or non-profit organization connected to AI.