In October 2018, two new research projects – Giving Voice to Digital Democracies: The Social Impact of Artificially Intelligent Communications Technology and Expertise Under Pressure – will inaugurate the Centre for the Humanities and Social Change, Cambridge. We are delighted to welcome Professor Bill Byrne, Co-Investigator of Giving Voice to Digital Democracies, to the Centre and asked about his hopes for the project.

Bill Byrne is Professor of Information Engineering in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Read his biography here.

Q. Professor Byrne, which aspect of Giving Voice to Digital Democracies do you find most exciting? 

It will be fascinating to hear insights into Artificially Intelligent Communications Technology from disciplines such as Linguistics, Philosophy, Law, and Psychology, since Engineers and Computer Scientists don’t often encounter those points of view. The sorts of interdisciplinary opportunities that this project will create are very rare indeed, and that is an exciting prospect.

Q. How does your own area of interest relate to the project’s primary research questions?

I’m interested in how users interact with language-based technologies such as speech recognition and machine translation. Understanding these interactions from a practical perspective is crucial to developing more successful systems that have a more beneficial social impact – and that is precisely what this project will focus on.

Q. What are your hopes for the Centre for the Humanities and Social Change (CHSC)?

I’d like to see a framework develop in which insights from Humanities-based subjects and non-technical disciplines can have a real impact in the development of new technologies. The CHSC is particularly well placed to ensure that those kinds of interactions occur in the spirit of positive collaboration.

Meet the Giving Voice to Digital Democracies Team: 

• Professor Ian Roberts, Principal Investigator
• Professor Bill Byrne, Co-Investigator
• Professor Ann Copestake, Co-Investigator
• Dr Marcus Tomalin, Senior Research Associate
• Dr Stefanie Ullmann, Postdoctoral Research Associate
• Dr Shauna Concannon, Postdoctoral Research Associate


Tel: +44 1223 766886