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 Dr Marcus Tomalin, Project Manager of Giving Voice to Digital Democracies, to the Centre and asked about his hopes for the project.

Dr Tomalin is a Research Associate in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Read his biography here.

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

A recent House of Lords report, AI in the UK, noted that ‘[t]he UK […] has a unique opportunity to forge a distinctive role for itself as a pioneer in ethical AI’ (p.120). I agree – and this project will provide us with opportunities to interact with key personnel in government, industry, and academia in order to develop design protocols for more ethical AICT. Systems developed in accordance with those protocols will be more trustworthy, transparent, and unbiased – and, for obvious reasons, that is an exciting prospect!

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

My research over the past twenty years has explored various topics in philosophy, linguistics, and speech technology. With its focus on ethics and language-based technologies, this project will enable me to combine those interests even more closely. And this kind of interdisciplinary research is undoubtedly timely, especially since the UK government is in the process of establishing a new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

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

I hope it succeeds in its goal of responding to the many crises (be they ecological, economic, political, cultural, technological, or spiritual) that modern societies are currently having to deal with. If the CHSC manages to deepen our understanding of the problems, and develop alternative concepts and strategies that foster more positive social change, then it will undoubtedly have a profoundly beneficial impact. And if our project can contribute to that broad aim in some way, then so much the better.

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


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