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Saturday Jun 20 2020
Web Desk

Pakistani scholars among winners of Facebook award for research in AI ethics

Web Desk

Two Pakistanis are among the winners of a competition for research in artificial intelligence (AI) ethics, Facebook announced on Saturday.

Junaid Qadir, a professor at the Information Technology University (ITU) in Lahore, along with co-investigator Amana Raquib, who is an assistant professor at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Karachi, were among winners chosen from nine different countries.

The initiative aims to help support thoughtful and ground-breaking academic research in the field of AI ethics. For the purpose, Facebook partnered with the Centre for Civil Society and Governance of The University of Hong Kong and the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong, to launch a request for proposals in December, 2019.

The request was open to academic think tanks, and research organisations registered and operational across Asia Pacific.

"The latest advancements in AI bring transformational changes to society, but at the same time, [bring forth] an array of complex ethical questions that must be closely examined," said Raina Yeung, Head of Privacy and Data Policy, Engagement, Asia Pacific, at Facebook.

"At Facebook, we believe our understanding of AI should be informed by research conducted in open collaboration with the community. That’s why we’re keen to support independent academic research institutions in APAC to pursue interdisciplinary research in AI ethics that will enable ongoing dialogue on these important issues in the application of AI technology that has a lot of potential to benefit society and mankind,” she said.

Meanwhile, Qadir, who is the principal investigator (PI) of the project, said he and his associate are "excited to be awarded this grant and are looking forward to beginning this project".

"Artificial Intelligence has great potential to facilitate sustainable human development goals, but it also has significant potential for abuse. Through this work, a culturally-informed, pro-social AI framework for Pakistan and the Muslim world will be proposed," he said, speaking of his project.

"In this regard, the rich Islamic legal tradition and the work on objectives (Maqāsid) of Islamic law will be leveraged for studying contemporary AI-related issues,” Qadir added.

“Through the proposed framework, the project team will seek to engage with other AI ethics frameworks and propose new insights that can advance the general body of knowledge on AI and Islamic ethical principles and guidelines,” he said.

Qadir is a professor at the ITU since April 2020, where he also serves as the chairperson of the Electrical Engineering Department since January 2019. He completed his Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia in 2008 and his Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from the University of Engineering and Technology (UET), Lahore, Pakistan in 2000.

Amana Raquib, the co-PI of the project, has completed her doctorate, summa cum laude, in Religious Philosophy and Ethics from the University of Queensland, Australia. She had earlier completed her undergraduate in Philosophy from the University of Karachi. She is the author of the book “Islamic Ethics of Technology: An Objectives' (Maqasid) Approach.”