Digital Diplomacy
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Digital Diplomacy

Picture from Washington, United States taken by @jorgeaalcala on Unsplash. I was never in Washington during the programme due to COVID-19, however I would like to visit in the future.

Review of the CAIDP AI Policy Clinic Fall 2021 After Completion

Attending the artificial intelligence policy programme from the Center for AI and Digital Policy

1. Reflections from CAIDP AI Policy Clinic Fall 2021

This article is about the AI Policy Clinic held by Center for AI and Digital Policy (CAIDP). I participated Fall 2021 and received the certificate after completing all the related activities. The participation was free, albeit with requirements to complete certain tasks related to CAIDP. Although I have named this article a ‘review’ it may be viewed as a collection of thoughts after having completed this AI policy clinic. It is merely my personal opinion and I do not represent any organisation in this article.

1.1 AI policy as an emerging field of research

AI policy is an emerging field of research and practice that has grown from a small group into a much broader community over the last few years. As outlined by Miles Brundage, it can be described as the following:

“AI policy is the analysis and practice of societal decision-making about AI (note that we say ‘societal’ rather than governmental, since many decision-makers are involved in making ‘policy,’ broadly construed).”

1.2 What is CAIDP?

I was very pleased to see the research group Center for AI and Digital Policy (CAIDP) holding an AI policy clinic lasting for almost the whole semester.

The participation was digital, and with COVID-19 raging in 2021 this was the ideal choice, it also enabled global inclusion of a great variety of people.

CAIDP is an independent non-profit corporation based in Washington, DC.

“The Center for AI and Digital Policy aims to ensure that artificial intelligence and digital policies promote a better society, more fair, more just, and more accountable — a world where technology promotes broad social inclusion based on fundamental rights, democratic institutions, and the rule of law.”

As I had not seen anything similar I it fell into the scope of my interests and my work at the Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Research Consortium. My title is AI Policy and Ethics, structured as such since I believe both policy and ethics are connected. This belief seemed to be reflected in the AI Policy Clinic with the strong addition of law and regulations as an added focal point.

1.3 Meeting an international community

When I applied and got accepted I met an international community with a mix of both young and experienced professionals that I found refreshing.

Participants I met had a background from United States, Ghana, Kenya, Canada, Turkey, Botswana, South Africa, India, Philippines, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Malawi, Switzerland, Finland, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe. I may even have forgotten some nations, suffice to say we were lucky to have a range of perspectives in our discussions.

Picture above from the graduation ceremony shared by CAIDP on their page. You can see me towards the top between Ben Schneiderman and Somaieh Nikpoor.

Some of the participants were young policy researchers or practitioners. While others were leading strategic efforts within government, especially within judicial institutions or the military. There were also people working in privately owned law firms and some from research environments or NGOs. As such, participants had wide ranging backgrounds that contributed to a lively debate.

Notably the AI Policy Clinic had a strong leadership that made the overall experience insightful and highly enjoyable.

2. Leadership in the AI Policy Clinic

In alphabetical order the members of the leadership steadily present through the sessions were Marc Rotenberg, Merve Hickok and Karine Caunes.

I do believe their backgrounds are important as it helps shape the overall experience of the AI policy clinic.

2.1 Marc Rotenberg

CAIDP is led by Marc Rotenberg, he is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University. He is the President and founder of the CAIDP. He is also is a graduate of Harvard College and Stanford Law School, and received an LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from Georgetown Law. At Harvard, he was a founding editor of the Harvard International Review and a head teaching fellow in computer science. He is a member of the OECD Expert Group on AI. In 2021, Marc was named to the Reference Panel of the Global Privacy Assembly (the global network of privacy officials and experts) and the CAHAI (the AI expert panel of the Council of Europe). In December this year, Marc was named as an Expert for the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) for a three-year term and also a Fulbright Specialist for a four-year term. There is a lot more to be said about Marc Rotenberg, so feel free to read his Wikipedia page.

2.2 Merve Hickok

Merve Hickok is the Senior Research Director of the Center for AI and Digital Policy, and the Founder of AIethicist.org. Her work intersects both AI ethics and AI policy and governance. She is focused on AI bias, social justice, DE&I, public benefit and participatory development and governance — as they translate into policies and practices. Merve is a Data Ethics Lecturer at University of Michigan, School of Information; Member of the Advisory Board of Turkish Policy Quarterly Journal; Member of the Founding Editorial Board at Springer Nature AI & Ethics journal; Advisor at The Civic Data Library of Context; Member at IEEE work groups on AI standard setting and Open Community for Ethics in Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (OCEANIS) alongside national institutions. She has been recognized by several organizations — most recently as one of the 100 Brilliant Women in AI Ethics™ 2021. Merve is also a member of the Board of Directors at Northern Nevada International Center. NNIC serves as a refugee resettlement agency to help displaced persons and victims of human trafficking, as well as organizing programs for international delegations through the U.S. Department of State and other federal agencies.

2.3 Karine Caunes

Karine Caunes is Global Program Director at the Center for AI and Digital Policy which aims to ensure that artificial intelligence and digital policies promote a better society, more fair, more just, and more accountable — a world where technology promotes broad social inclusion based on fundamental rights, democratic institutions, and the rule of law. She is also a team member of the Global Alliance for Digital Governance established by the Boston Global Forum and AI World Society. She currently runs the CAIDP AI Policy Clinic together with Marc Rotenberg and Merve Hickok. As an expert in EU law, she is the Editor-in-Chief of the European Law Journal (ELJ) and Senior Lawyer — Course Director at the Academy of European Law (ERA). She holds a PhD in law from the European University Institute, was Jean Monnet Research Fellow within the Center for International and Regional Economic Law & Justice at NYU and visiting Scholar at Columbia Law School. She has taught at Sciences Po Paris, Université Paris X, Université Lyon III, France; European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation, Venice, Italy; Central European University, Budapest, Hungary; Ljubljana University, Slovenia; IE Law School, Madrid, Spain; Catolica Global School of Law, Lisbon, Portugal. She has participated in various EU and nationally-funded research projects and has been a consultant for European and national institutions.

2.4 Fellows of the AI Policy Clinic

The AI Policy Clinic for fall 2021 was also led by fellows. These were participants from the previous AI policy clinic. They were responsible for leadership when participants were brought into different groups.

My two fellows, each with separate regional focus were Paula Soumaya Domit (Latin America) and Giuliano Borter (Europe).

3. What did we do?

When you hear AI Policy Clinic that may sound interesting, yet as they say: “Actions speak louder than words.” So what did we actually do?

3.1 A few action points

  1. Exploring some of the major frameworks and institutions working in AI policy (OECD, UNESCO, CAHAI, GPAI, EU, etc.).
  2. Meeting up twice every week to share significant news within AI policy and learn more about selected topics. Present independent research by members of the various groups on different regions.
  3. Writing AI policy statements. Advising national governments and international organisations on AI policies and practices through writing collaborative policy briefs and answering to calls for comments.
  4. Contributing to the Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Values 2021 with detailed country reports. This work involved evaluating several parameters.

In the beginning of the AI policy clinic rudimentary concepts were introduced.

We were also brought into a Slack channel for CAIDP to keep continuous communication amongst the participants.

The first few sessions consisted of sharing significant policy news with each other in the chat and learning about AI policy frameworks and institutions.

Rather quickly participants were put into different groups with different regional focus. These groups were allocated by the leadership.

I was brought into the Latin America group where I worked on a policy statement towards the legal regulation of artificial intelligence in Brazil. We made a draft in the Latin American group and received comments from the leadership of CAIDP.

The next step after the policy statement was to contribute to the Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Values 2021 country reports.

3.2 Personalised learning journey

As I was engaged into research into AI policy in Nordic countries at the time I asked the leadership whether I could swap to the Europe group. My personal circumstances were that I had a newborn child at the time too, so focusing on a country where I could use my existing competencies was important at the time.

Thankfully the leadership team let me exchange with someone who wanted to exchange to the Latin American group. As such I ended up writing the country report about Norway together with an AI policy researcher based in Belgium, originally from Switzerland. The country reports were written in pairs.

4. How was it?

4.1 Highlights

There are various highlights that made me enjoy the CAIDP Fall 2021 AI Policy Clinic. Overall I think the warm and friendly atmosphere that greeted me each session with experienced and humble professionals in CAIDP was central in making the whole experience a great learning environment. I came to learn more each week, so I am glad that previous participants and their knowledge about specific topics were highlighted and their presentations added a lot of depth to highly relevant ongoing discussions in the field. Lastly, writing assignments together was a great way to increase understanding of various geographic areas. Still, I am glad that my wishes for my own personal development were respected by the CAIDP staff as well as my circumstances. As such (1) the warm learning environment; (2) community sharing; and (3) personalised learning journey. These three pillars were highlights of the overall experience.

4.2 Areas for improvement

One area for improvement is the scheduling of deliverables. One particular aspect to consider is to announce dates for large deliverables as early as possible. I understand that this can be hard, yet it makes a big difference as many in the community have a range of other commitments to harmonize or balance. In addition it might be worth considering that most professional or study deadlines fall in December, as such it might be worth completing major deliverables prior to this time and having the debrief or feedback through these busy times. If this is addressed I would be happy to raise my overall assessment from very good to excellent.

5. Overall opinion of AI Policy Clinic Fall 2021

5.1 The experience comes highly recommended

I highly recommend the AI Policy Clinic to future participants. At the time of writing I believe the application round for the AI Policy Clinic Spring 2022 has finished. So that train has left, so to speak. Still I think that it is a community well worth joining if you are interested in AI policy. As such, it is also worth the wait if you are willing.

What I believe is great about the AI Policy Clinic is how it enables young AI policy researchers and practitioners to connect with experienced people in the field.

The majority of the participants were fairly young, although you could spot the seasoned professionals amongst those participating. What everyone had in common was their passion for the field and their drive to make a difference wherever they were located, this was particularly inspiring to feel after each session.

5.2 My personal rating

For me personally it has been challenging with work, studies and a newborn child recently. Still, joining these sessions have always been bright moments both in terms of insight and discovering new people with shared interests. If I had a range between poor, fair, good, very good and excellent this is how I would rate the AI policy clinic in fall 2021:

Personal rating of CAIDP Fall Policy Clinic 2021: very high.

As it is one of the first iterations of this AI policy clinic I think that it will become excellent going forward and I have a strong belief in the team in the organisation after experiencing their warm engagement.

I am incredibly grateful to Marc, Merve and Karine for putting this together. Also I extend my thanks to all the helpful fellows who took part in the AI policy clinic. Truly appreciate the time and effort taken to put this together.

6. Going forward into AI policy in 2022

We need to engage more with local politicians, policy-makers, technologists and citizens within AI policy. I think this international engagement with CAIDP could be key to contextualising change in the field of AI if you want to learn more.

Also with the connections that CAIDP has to GPAI, CAHAI and the OECD you will find a range of discussions brought into focus.

If we can bring these varied perspectives to local actors I think we can be part of shaping an ecosystem for more responsible AI development and applications.

After all, AI systems do not always operate within the confines of national borders — and international collaboration is highly important to help mitigate risks or protect rights.

Where else in the world can you find a community like has been brought forward in the CAIDP AI Policy Clinic? I am hard pressed to answer that question, but I would love to hear your opinion in a comment if you have any thoughts about this to share.

I hope this was helpful, if not please tell me, I am always happy to hear your opinion.

Here is the neat certificate made by CAIDP proving my participation and completion.

A picture of my AI policy certification from CAIDP.

This is #1000daysofAI and you are reading article 507. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence for 1000 days. The first 500 days I wrote an article every day, and now from 500 to 1000 I write at a different pace.

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Alex Moltzau

Alex Moltzau

1.4K Followers

AI Policy and Ethics at www.nora.ai. Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own. twitter.com/AlexMoltzau