Monash takes the lead in using AI for social good

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Researcher using artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) – the ability of computers to “think” like human beings – is revolutionising industries globally, yet there are no universally accepted ethical guidelines regulating it.

A new institute at Monash University is boldly stepping into this void.

Ethics in AI – and using AI as a force for social good – form a central focus for the Monash Data Futures Institute, which draws together existing AI activities across the University.

Monash University’s track record in AI research is already strong. The Australian Research Council last year gave Monash the highest possible rating for AI, saying it was “well above world standard”.

The institute will oversee development of AI and data science technology, but researchers will also consider how this should be applied. The new institute is jointly directed by the Dean of Monash’s Faculty of Science, Professor Jordan Nash, and the Dean of the Faculty of IT, Professor Jon Whittle.

Professor Whittle said there was increasing concern about ethics in AI, particularly about data privacy, but also bias and discrimination. A US courtroom system using AI to predict reoffenders, for example, had an inbuilt bias against ethnic minorities.

“Monash is taking a leading role in developing ethical and regulatory guidelines,” Professor Whittle said. “It’s a new thing for Monash, and also internationally,” he said.

The interdisciplinary institute, which includes academics from all 10 faculties, is already overseeing more than 200 projects using IT for social good, many of which enlist AI. These include satellites that use AI to perform land use classification that could be used by the United Nations for its Sustainable Development Goals, and machine learning enlisted in the quest to provide non-drug interventions for patients with epilepsy.

The institute, in its early stages, aims to create transformative and lasting change in three key areas: governance and policy, health sciences, and sustainable development.

A new degree course will train data scientists in domains such as health, law and finance – a pressing need in industry.

The opportunity

The Monash Data Futures Institute, in its early stages, aims to create transformative and lasting change in three key areas: governance and policy, health sciences, and sustainable development. Monash is seeking future-focused partners to participate in developing and advancing the institute’s priorities.

If you would like to know more, contact Dani Howden at Dani.Howden@monash.edu.

Why partner with Monash to build thriving communities?

  • Monash is world-renowned for its Bayesian networks research – artificial intelligence models for reasoning under certainty.
  • The Monash Technology Precinct is home to significant research infrastructure and partners, such as CSIRO, Monash Health and the Australian Synchrotron, as well as industry partners, including Bosch, Johnson & Johnson, Agilent and Woodside Energy