If you tune into the political discussions around artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning, much of what you’ll hear centres squarely on its economic potential. The last federal budget talked about making Canada “a world-leading destination for companies seeking to invest in AI and innovation.” But what exactly are the social costs and benefits associated with the rapidly changing developments in AI? What will be the impact of the increased use of algorithms in policy development and service delivery, and will the design of algorithms take into account potential biases?

Already, the European Economic and Social Committee has called for a code of ethics to cover the development, application and use of AI, to make sure “AI systems remain compatible with the principles of human dignity, integrity, freedom and cultural and gender diversity, as well as with fundamental human rights.” In Canada, the Montreal Declaration on Responsible AI, an initiative of the Université de Montréal, is trying to stimulate discussion on ethical guidelines, noting that “AI should ultimately promote the wellbeing of all sentient creatures.”

The articles in this special feature will examine some of the ethical and social issues associated with AI and deep learning, including its impact on areas such as cybersecurity, journalism, justice, health care, urban planning and transit.

Photo: Shutterstock.com/by chombosan