Research Track

Intelligence and Autonomy

Active from 2014-2018, this track developed grounded, qualitative research to contextualize a cross-disciplinary understanding of AI, and to inform the design, evaluation, and regulation of AI-driven systems.

About this Track

Our newest AI-related research can be found under the research track AI on the Ground.

Rather than focus on utopian dreaming or dystopian fears, the Intelligence & Autonomy research track (2014-2018) began from the position that the historical and social contexts in which AI systems emerge and operate should be central to debates about their uses and potential effects. To contribute to and develop this understanding, we produced empirical research ranging from an analysis of the ways in which service platforms, like Uber, may present a potential backdoor to employment discrimination to the history of aviation autopilot litigation and its implications for legal responsibility in autonomous systems.

We also engaged a range of stakeholders, aiming to foster productive interdisciplinary and inter-institutional conversations. These engagements included invited talks and workshops, including Futures Forum 2015, a cross-disciplinary convening that used scenarios drawn from commissioned science fiction stories as a collective starting point for new and inclusive ways of planning for the future. We also published An AI Pattern Language, a booklet based on interviews conducted in 2015-2016 with practitioners working in the intelligent systems and AI industry that presents a taxonomy of social challenges facing AI industry practitioners and articulates an array of patterns that practitioners have developed in response.

The Intelligence & Autonomy Initiative was founded with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Microsoft Research, with additional research support from The Ethics and Governance of AI Fund.

All Work

  • report
    Data & Society
    "Discriminating Tastes" examines how bias may creep into evaluations of Uber drivers through consumer-sourced rating systems. Read more
    October 2016
  • report
    Data & Society
    D&S researchers Alex Rosenblat and Tim Hwang explore "the significant role of worker motivations and regional political environments on the social and economic outcomes of automation" in this report. Read more
    October 2016
  • Book or Chapter
    Data & Society
    D&S researchers Madeleine Clare Elish and Tim Hwang discuss the social challenges of AI in their collection of essays, An AI Pattern Language. From the authors: How are practitioners grappling with the social impacts ... Read more
    September 2016
  • report
    Data & Society
    "The Wisdom of the Captured" analyzes how widely captured data of technologies, which enable these technologies to make intelligent decisions, may negatively impact users. Read more
    September 2016
  • blog post
    EthnographyMatters.net
    D&S researcher Madeleine Clare Elish asserts ethnography and anthropology's role in studying automation and intelligent systems. Cultural perceptions of the role of humans in automated and robotic systems need to be update... Read on EthnographyMatters.net
    June 2016
  • op-ed
    Slate
    D&S researcher Madeleine Clare Elish discusses the complexities of error in automated systems. Elish argues that the human role in automated systems has become 'the weak link, rather than the point of stability'. We need t... Read on Slate
    June 2016
  • op-ed
    Harvard Business Review
    D&S Researcher Alex Rosenblat examines how Uber’s app design and deployment redistributes management functions to semiautomated and algorithmic systems, as well as to consumer ratings systems, creating ambiguity around who ... Read on Harvard Business Review
    April 2016
  • Academic Article
    SSRN
    In this Working Paper from We Robot 2016, D&S Researcher Madeleine Elish employs the concept of “moral crumple zones” within human-machine systems as a lens through which to think about the limitations of current frameworks... Read on SSRN
    March 2016
  • op-ed
    Slate
    D&S Researcher Tim Hwang and Samuel Woolley consider the larger trend toward automated politics and the likely future sophistication of automated politics and potential impacts on the public sphere in the era of social medi... Read on Slate
    March 2016
  • Longform
    Vice
    “Just as the software and hardware of the internet has been militarized by the imperatives of a mostly secret 'cyberwar,' so too are online social spaces being weaponized in new and mostly hidden ways.” D&S researcher Tim Hw... Read on Vice
    September 2015