As London Tech Week draws to a close, we want to continue its momentum and announce an event we’re running in partnership with the Ada Lovelace Institute (part of the Nuffield Foundation) and Civil Society Futures in the Autumn.
Society in the Loop will take place on Friday 14th September at The Foundry, London, aptly named: “a place for change.”
The event brings together the social sector and civil society, with the social sciences and the technology industry. The aim is to build the knowledge, understanding and relationships necessary to support society to be in the loop of how technology is developed and directed.
The time is now for these three communities to work together.
In a post a few month’s back I called for civil society to have a role in directing the impacts of technology in our society. But I’ve not been the only one. An Omidyar Network report asks for public scrutiny of automated decisions. It featured in Matt Hancock’s talk about the Office of Civil Society’s future strategy. And DeepMind’s Ethics & Society research unit argue: “we need new standards of public accountability that allow all corners of society to hold those developing and deploying algorithms responsible for their effects. And we need technologists to take responsibility for the impact of their work — not after — but before it’s deployed.” Iason Gabriel, Research Scientist
For this first event we will be curating it carefully to ensure a balanced representation of all the communities we want there. We will be sending out invitations to 50 people and organisations, but have 20 places that we are opening up for application. If you’d like to attend, you can apply here.
“A key ambition for the Ada Lovelace Institute is to connect and convene diverse voices on the social and ethical implications of AI and data. We see working and entering into a dialogue with wider civil society as integral to the success of this aim, and it is for this reason that we are partnering on the event.” Reema Patel, Ada Lovelace Institute
An event for three communities to come together
1. The social sector and civil society
“Civil society is all of us. When we act not for profit nor because the law requires us to, but out of love or anger or creativity, or principle, we are civil society. When we bring together our friends or colleagues or neighbours to have fun or to defend our rights or to look after each other, we are civil society. Whether we organise through informal friendship networks, Facebook groups, community events and protests; or formal committees, charities, faiths and trade unions, whether we block runways or co-ordinate coffee mornings, sweat round charity runs or make music for fun; when we organise ourselves outside the market and the state, we are all civil society.” Civil Society Futures
These are the people that are living every day with pressing needs, or are the organisations that are working with people and communities to address common challenges.
They understand what people are concerned about. They see how communities are changing on the ground. At the event they will be able to share:
- What is happening for people every day in communities
- What people are worrying about or preoccupied by every day
- What the struggles are for civil society organisations and community
- What help is needed and what they need to better understand
2. Social scientists
Social scientists understand people, cultures, communities and societies. It is the social sciences that have been leading the thinking in digital ethics. They will be able to share:
- What they are learning about the impacts of technology on society (sharing specific examples)
- Where they think the opportunities are
- What they foresee as some of the unintended consequences
- What questions they think need asking and exploring going forward
3. The technology industry
The tech industry have a lot of the power and the knowledge in this group of audiences. We will ask them to share:
- What they are working on
- What the opportunities are
- What’s coming on the horizon
- How they make decisions about what to build and to experiment with
- What accountability they have in place
- What questions they ask of themselves and of the tech (whom do they work with and what do they do to understand the communities they are building for?)
And going forward…
We don’t expect this to be a one off conversation and so we will also be asking:
- How can these relationships and discussion continue?
- How can we involve more people?
- What is the best forum for this?
As part of our work to link up these different communities and to explore the vital role we believe civil society and the social sector has in leading this agenda, we’ve also started a monthly Society in the Loop newsletter. Read more about it why we started the newsletter as well as the first and second editions. And if you like what you read then sign up here.