Matilda Dorotic invited by the European Commission to discuss AI in smart cities

5 March 2021

BI’s Associate Professor Matilda Dorotic has been invited by the European Commission to give a talk based on her research on the impact of artificial intelligence on citizen wellbeing in smart cities.

Dorotic has been invited by the commission’s Directorate General for Home Affairs and their AI Expert Group, to talk about her research conducted together with BI colleagues Emanuela Stagno and Luk Warlop.

Their research explores societal challenges of implementing smart city solutions and citizens’ reactions to AI technologies, particularly those related to safety AI technologies.

“I am honored that EC’s AI Expert Group has invited us to present our research findings on citizen evaluations of smart city technologies and the societal challenges they impose”, says Dorotic.

A human-centric approach to implementing AI

The researcher explains that the upcoming meeting highlights an important debate within the European Commission and the European parliament on the importance of finding a human-centric approach to the employment of AI that supports European values.

“The European Commission has shown a strong interest in empirical-based research evidence that has citizens in focus when building the public governance policies”, Dorotic explains.

In their research, which is based on seven studies with more than 5000 participants, Dorotic and her colleagues have identified several challenges related to the subject of implementing AI technology. This included a lack of understanding of how citizens trade-off future benefits and costs from smart city AI solutions.

“These trade-offs are sometimes subconscious and hard to express, but they shape citizens’ willingness to support or oppose the implementation of AI tools”, says Dorotic.

The impact of AI on citizen behaviour

In particular, citizens seem to undermine the potential threats to privacy and well-being that may come from commercial AI applications, while at the same time overemphasizing the potential threats and negative biases towards publicly applied AI.

“This is likely exacerbated by social media and the prevalence of threatening media reports on mass public surveillance”, Dorotic argues.

Finally, AI surveillance technologies have a strong impact on how we as citizens will behave in the future towards government and other citizens.

“For example, we found that in the futuristic, smart city scenarios wired with AI surveillance, people become less willing to help a fallen person on a street, because they transfer this responsibility to the technology and the system around them”, Dorotic explains.

“Important repercussions”

Dorotic expresses her gratitude to BI for providing the funding for the research through the Basic Research Grant, which allowed her and her colleagues to explore these issues.

“All of these issues have important repercussions on the future well-being and on the understanding of how citizens react to the implementation of the AI tools, which evokes issues that are much more complex than what engineers evaluate with the efficiency of the tool”, says Dorotic.  

Line Lervik-Olsen, Professor and Head of BI’s Department of Marketing, is looking forward to Dorotic’ speech on 11 March.

“This is an important recognition of BI and the societal impact of our research on an international level, especially considering how the research is currently yet to be published. Matilda, Luk and Emanuela have done tremendous work so far and the attention they are receiving now is thoroughly deserved”, says Lervik-Olsen.

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