Earlier this year, Danit Gal joined SEED as a Trustee. A true citizen of the world (and cyberworld), she is a Project Assistant Professor at the Cyber Civilization Research Center at the Keio University Global Research Institute in Tokyo, Japan. Danit also chairs the IEEE P7009 standard on the Fail-Safe Design of Autonomous and Semi-Autonomous Systems and is an active member of the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Autonomous and Intelligent Systems. In this Q&A, Danit tells us about her interests in AI, her academic work, and the world of AI and bots from her unique vantage point.
Please tell us about your interests in AI and what led you to your careers in teaching and researching this industry?
My interest in AI came from two directions. One is my background in politics and strategy, which taught me how powerful ideas and tools spread globally and can become game changers. Second is my background in cybersecurity, which taught me how instrumental technology can be for our development and, at the same time, how fragile it still is. Combined, these two paths led me to engage more deeply with the topic of tech geopolitics. This plays a huge role in how we develop and use technology and is key to making positive and inclusive change. Given AI’s growing geopolitical spread and pervasive nature, it’s a fascinating and critical topic to explore.
As a professor at Keio university, could you tell us a bit more about your current subject area and interests in technology?
As a project assistant professor at Keio University, I’m a part of the new Cyber Civilization Research Center (CCRC) at the Keio Global Research Institute. Given the broad focus of the center and the open nature of Keio University, I’m able to work on multiple projects at the same time. For example, one project focuses on an evidence-based approach to understanding the social and emotional implications of conversational AI. Another project maps technological landscapes in developing markets and helps tailor solutions that promote indigenous growth and development. A third project I’m currently engaged in is writing a book chapter about AI ethics in East Asia for the Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI. I also chair the IEEE P7009 Standard on the Fail-Safe Design of Autonomous and Semi-Autonomous Systems working group. This work is essential to ensuring that these technologies are safe and robust enough to support both operators and operations.
How do you see data, AI and bots developing over the next couple of years?
I see this ecosystem continuing to develop and scale faster, with bots taking up a larger role in service provision and interpersonal communication. Growth in service provision is easier to accept, but I would advise skeptics to look at conversational agents deployed by companies like Microsoft. Their social chatbots business is a force to be reckoned with. We need AI and data to harness and improve each respective tool (pre-trained models are still in early stages). As such, their development should still go hand in hand to provide meaningful real-world applications. More needs to be done to ensure these applications are inclusively beneficial, however. Combined, data, AI, and bots will conjure many exciting and concerning developments. Luckily, the SEED Project is aware of this dualistic nature. It is actively working to maximize positive impact by making services and knowledge more equally accessible and distributed.
What are the stand out moments of your career so far?
I’m very privileged to have so many stand out moments, as I enjoy engaging with multiple stakeholders across a wide variety of countries. I’ve been engaging with governments, companies, universities, and civil society actors in numerous countries across Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, South and North America, and Africa. Bit by bit, these interactions reveal more of the ever–evolving global technology landscape I’m so keen on understanding more deeply. Moments like these stand out due to how much they contribute to my professional and personal understanding of the world we live in.
How did you hear about SEED?
I heard about the Seed project during an AI conference in Singapore. Nathan, the CEO, and I met there and spoke on the same panel. We couldn’t stop talking during the conference and found that our views on what exists and what could be done to improve our future really matched. I’ve followed the development of SEED from Beijing and then Tokyo, and was really impressed by the team’s dedication and progress. I was very happy to join when the time was right.
What does your role as Trustee entail at SEED and what do you hope to achieve in this role?
My role entails thinking through strategy with Seed’s wonderful team and helping navigate international and ethical discussions and actions. The company is committed to being a force for positive change from start to finish, and that’s a commitment I’m very proud to be a part of.
What makes SEED stand out from other projects?
I’ve always been a fan of the service–based shared economy idea. SEED offers a socially and commercially-minded tangible solution to make that happen. And it’s already up and running. This project is not just about blind or detached facilitation, it’s about using the tools and platforms to distribute expertise and value more widely and equally. This inclusive mission statement is at the heart of the benefit many people are looking to gain from using technology. It really speaks to the work I’m doing and the tech-enabled development I’d like to see going forward. I hope more companies will help spread knowledge and expertise rather than confine it.
SEED is an open, independent, and decentralized marketplace for developers, publishers and users of conversational user interfaces (CUIs) or “bots”, that democratizes AI. The SEED platform provides development tools, intellectual property, and a tokenized network for delivering front-ends to AI technologies.
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