Brain Awareness Week at IIT Gandhinagar– A Panel of neuroscience experts discussed neuroethics and AI in the global context


Gandhinagar: As a part of the ongoing Brain Awareness Week celebration, the Centre for Cognitive and Brain Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) hosted a panel discussion on ‘Neuroethics and AI in the Global Context’ on March 17, 2021. The virtual event highlighted the increasing significance of neuroethics and some of the concerns surrounding the emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.


The panel comprised national and international experts, academicians, and practitioners of neuroscience – Dr Philipp Kellmeyer, Neurologist and Head at the Neuroethics & AI Ethics Lab at the Department of Neurosurgery, University of Freiburg; Dr Laura Specker Sullivan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Fordham University; and Laura Cabrera, Associate Professor at the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, and core faculty of the Center for Neural Engineering, Pennsylvania State University. Dr Jayashree Dasgupta, Co-Founder and Project Director at Samvedna Senior Care moderated the panel discussion.


Dr Philipp Kellmeyer said, “Neuroethics is not only about ethical values but also about finding ways to build effective government/regulatory frameworks on ethical aspects of Neurology to protect individuals from any harmful effects of technological advancement. Dr Laura Specker Sullivan said, “Neuroethics is about interweaving human values in the development of neuroscience technology. Neuroethics is about the human values that go into science and the human values that come out of science.” it is imperative to be mindful of the values we transfer into science because our values get translated into development of the technology. Dr Laura Cabrera said that as an engineer, she was mainly concerned about the implications of developing technology on humans.


The panel discussed the key advances in Artificial Intelligence technologies and how they will impact our lives in the next 3-5 years. Dr Laura Specker Sullivan said that AI is good at handling big data, which humans cannot do. Highlighting the social concerns of AI, she said, “One of the common misconceptions about AI is that because it is not human, it is not biased which is not true”. Deliberating on the major concerns related to the increasing use of AI technologies across the world, the panellists stressed on some of the critical challenges that need to be addressed to reduce the influence of AI on the way we see things. Dr Laura Specker Sullivan highlighted the broader issues of structural inequality and stated that the impact of AI is different on different populations. Therefore, gender or racial bias in AI systems is a concern. “It is a social and political issue that we need to think about more sensitively”, she said. Dr Laura Cabrera emphasised that her main concern is increasing reliance on technology. She stated that currently, AI systems are in the stages of conception, so it is easier to determine the ethical implications of technology, but as technology becomes increasingly advanced and integrated with our lives, the task of determining accountability and responsibility will become complicated. The more blindly we rely on them, the more biases come in it. Dr Philipp Kellmeyer said, “There is a surge in AI applications for various purposes. Optimising human-AI interaction for better results will be a challenge for us. There is a long way to go to globalise it by joint efforts.”


Cautioning the public about how to have better control over their online privacy and to be sceptical of various companies’ claims regarding data use, Dr Philipp Kellmeyer said, “People should be concerned about the way big technology companies are using AI and heavily investing in neuro-technology and neuroscience for its business and activities. It is very difficult to know what their marketing claims about data are and what they actually use. You are constantly being analysed for advertising and marketing purposes. Companies have to be accountable for the way they use these technologies.” He added that brain data would play a big part in future consumer choices and behaviour. Brain data with other contextual details will enable companies to do stuff that you cannot even think of. It is a fast-moving situation, so there is a growing need for consumer awareness about these technologies.


The Centre for Cognitive and Brain Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITGN) is celebrating the virtual edition of Brain Awareness Week from March 15 to 21, 2021, with an aim to inform and educate people about the many wonders of the brain and to generate excitement amongst youngsters to pursue research in Brain Sciences. The event includes a variety of talks, panel discussions, workshops, and competitions targeted at a diverse audience ranging from core neuroscience researchers to high school students.