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#AliceAsks Belfast Event Explores Ethics and AI

Last week, our second #AliceAsks event took place in Belfast, where we delved into the pressing question: ‘Is AI eroding our trust in communications and threatening our democracy?’. Hosted as part of the Imagine! Belfast Festival of Ideas & Politics, the event gathered experts and enthusiasts alike to explore the complicated relationship between artificial intelligence (AI) and public trust.

Our expert panel of speakers featured Alice CEO and founder Martina Quinn, AI and digital transformation expert Niall McKeown, and Senior Analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue Ciarán O’Connor, with former BBC news journalist Sarah Travers as the event MC. They engaged in a dynamic discussion on disinformation, misinformation, conspiracy theories, deep fakes, and whether it’s possible to regulate AI and ensure it can be used ethically and for the public good.

After 90 minutes of engaging conversation from the panellists and the audience, our key takeaways from the event included:

  1. AI presents lots of opportunities, but we need to act fast to ensure it is properly regulated, from grassroots to Big Tech levels. Without proper oversight, AI could pose serious threats to democracy and public trust. We have already witnessed the negative repercussions of lax regulation of social media platforms; we must ensure the same does not happen with AI.

  2. Innovation and regulation are not mutually exclusive; rather, they must be seen as complementary forces in ensuring AI's ethical development.

  3. AI itself is morally neutral. Whether it’s used for good or bad is dependent on the morals of the people using it.

  4. It’s important that we strengthen media literacy and critical thinking skills across all age-groups so we can all identify and appropriately respond to disinformation, misinformation and rapid advancements in the technology sector.

  5. We must hold the companies profiting from AI to account. Many such companies are currently scaremongering about existential threats to humanity as a result of AI, while simultaneously developing and launching bigger, better, faster tools… They talk about “saving humanity” but are ultimately motivated by profit. Governments must stand up to them and grasp the opportunity we now have to ensure AI is developed in safe and ethical ways.

In this ‘year of elections’, the impact of AI on democracy will remain a serious and pertinent issue. At Alice, we’ll be monitoring this space closely, and we’re planning future events on similar topics, so stay tuned!