UMD Researchers Discuss How AI Will Change the Way We Live

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Five researchers with appointments in the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) were interviewed for a podcast series on how artificial intelligence (AI) will change education, work, culture and creativity. The podcast episodes were produced by first-year students in UMD’s Design Cultures + Creativity Program who are researching and experimenting with generative AI.

Katie Shilton, an associate professor in the College of Information Studies, and Hal Daumé III, a professor of computer science, were interviewed together for an episode focused on what ethical and trustworthy AI looks like.

“The goal of many people who work on AI is automation, which basically means replace the person,” said Daumé, who is the director of the Institute for Trustworthy AI in Law & Society (TRAILS). “I’m excited about AI as a form of human expertise augmentation to help people do things they couldn’t do before.”

Shilton is also a co-PI at TRAILS, where she leads the participatory design research thrust, which advocates for the deployment and use of AI in a way that aligns with the values and interests of diverse groups of people, particularly those that have been previously marginalized in the development process.

“Design for accessibility for so long has fallen on the margins, when there are so many people who need various sorts of accommodations for technologies,” she said. “We need to be thinking about what these tools are good for in an ethical way, not an instrumental one.”

Furong Huang, an assistant professor of computer science who is also a part of TRAILS, specializes in trustworthy machine learning. On her podcast episode, Huang discussed her recent Microsoft Accelerate Foundation Models Research Award, the importance of balancing ethics during this surge of AI, and internet deepfakes, among other topics. Throughout her interview, Huang maintained a positive outlook on AI, describing herself as cautiously optimistic.

“The collaboration between a machine-learning model and an actual human expert together might make decision making much easier,” she said.

Irina Muresanu, an associate professor of violin with an affiliate appointment in UMIACS, said she’s “on the side that you can make lemonade out of lemons” when it comes to AI and education. In her interview, Muresanu discussed her project vAIolin, an AI-powered platform that acts as a teaching assistant to support students when they’re practicing the instrument at home by providing auditory feedback in real time.

Specifically for the violin, an instrument that is strenuous to master, the software can check for aspects like posture and do work virtually that can enhance the learning experience, Muresanu said.

The project, which was a collaboration with UMIACS Research Scientist Cornelia Fermüller, was recently featured on WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C..

John Horty, a professor of philosophy with an affiliate appointment in UMIACS, discussed different approaches to machine learning, the importance of consistency checking within data, and the application of AI and the justice system. Specifically within law offices, a lot of the text analysis and research work, involving precedents and other tasks that may seem mundane or tedious are now being passed over to AI.

“A lot of legal work is drudgery,” he said. “This is a case where white-collar work is going over to AI.”

Horty was interviewed alongside Ilaria Canavotto, a postdoctoral associate with the Values-Centered Artificial Intelligence Initiative at the University of Maryland.

—Story by Shaun Chornobroff and Maria Herd, UMIACS communications group

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