U of T and AI: Faculty members on their research and its impact

More time to interact with patients, improved efficiency in health-care delivery, and new global communities of exchange and communication: According to University of Toronto researchers, these are just some of the positive outcomes of artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence and automation, and the impact of advanced technology on business strategy and workforce demand and supply, is one of the themes that will be discussed at this year’s Ontario Economic Summit. Together with leaders in the private, public and not-for-profit sector, U of T researchers and entrepreneurs will be showcasing how they are seizing these opportunities.

Work at U of T is already demonstrating how advances in machine learning can accelerate gains in health, education, communication and quality of life, as well as the importance of educating students to think about the ethics of the technology.

Ashton Anderson, assistant professor in the department of computer and mathematical sciences at U of T Scarborough and the tri-campus graduate department of computer science

The availability of data about how millions of people are using online technology to communicate with each other is an unprecedented development for the social sciences, says Anderson.

Anderson teaches computational social science to undergraduates and graduate students, covering topics like crowdsourcing, the interactions of human and algorithmic decision-making, and bias and ethics in computational systems.

“There is no other subject that is most relevant to the giant companies,” Anderson says.

“Facebook and Google are basically graph algorithms that the students are learning. … They come out from my class with concrete skills they can apply to social data.”

Ethics in computing is another area that is receiving increasing attention, he says. Graduate students have always grappled with those issues, but now undergraduates are exposed to the topic as well.

Anderson points to questions about how Facebook data is collected and stored by app developers as an example. “I have a lecture on ethical issues in social network mapping which is new, and it’s there because of the issues happening outside [the classroom].”

Story by Simona Chiose republished in part from U of T News