Civic Empowerment in the Development and Deployment of AI Systems
Because AI/ML is labelled opaque and unknowable to the overwhelming percentage of the population, it can be rendered “beyond scrutiny” for any meaningful civic engagement. Current methods in AI Ethics/Responsible AI and within the FAccT community envision citizen participation as largely stakeholder engagement, which can be highly reductionist because it can substitute representation for influence. How do we move beyond stakeholder engagement, individual manipulation (nudging), or public provision of feedback? It is relatively easy to get a member of a civil society organization onto an AI oversight board. It’s far more challenging for citizens to leverage political power to exert influence over AI development and deployment. For example, how do we actively engage civil society in influencing AI decisions and technically empower them to possibly even use AI to counter such policy? This interactive workshop offers a primer on participatory theory from the social sciences, discusses the role of tech-enabled community advocacy, and considers the political power dynamics in using tech to influence AI development and tech policy. Our goal is to draft a questionnaire that will allow AI developers, governments, and civic tech organizations to gauge the level of civic empowerment in an AI system. This can further serve as a set of questions to augment AI certification, audit, and risk assessment tools. In addition to primers and talks, the workshop will use a digital whiteboard and guided breakout rooms, where participants will answer a series of questions and reflect on the discussions. Our hope is that, by the end of the workshop, participants will learn about the components of civic empowerment and actively include civil society/tech organizations as AI systems are developed and deployed.