Resources  ·  Posted May 13, 2024

AI and Social Innovation: Dangers and Opportunities

Want to know more about AI? Our Business Development Manager, Sam Ross, reviews the first in our series of Artificial Intelligence and Social Innovation events.

Being just about able to operate my own mobile phone, I wasn’t sure what to expect when Xabi, The Melting Pot’s Community Coordinator, invited me to help him organise a series of events on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Social Innovation.  

I needn’t have worried; the speakers at our first event in April, Elliot Fosong of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics, and Giles Howdle of The University of Edinburgh School of Philosophy, made the discussion accessible, engaging and worthwhile. Here’s what I learned…  

From Elliot Fosong

Elliot raised an important point for me: that the uncertainty around AI and the true extent of its capacity was unsettling for a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean that we should rule out or totally embrace AI right now. In fact, Elliot suggests, “if you hear of someone who is certain about the future of AI, you should somewhat distrust them”. With our limited knowledge of AI, and without effective or guided discussion, perhaps a sense of uncertainty has generated prematurely.  

So, my first lesson from the event was this: the uncertainty I feel around AI stems from my need for more information 

One of the useful things about attending this event was that it didn’t just give me more information, but it gave us a chance to think about what we valued and how AI threatened or supported those values.  

From Giles Howdle

That’s the discussion that Giles led us through in the second half of the event. Many of us felt that we valued experiencing and overcoming challenges. Doing this allowed us to feel a sense of control over how we spend our time, whilst achieving desired outcomes for different stages in life. Almost all of us felt that these values could be achieved by paid employment, which itself could be threatened by the increased use of AI. 

The foreseen radical changes brought by AI to employment, for instance, are not dissimilar to those brought by other transformative technologies. Whilst farming promoted civilisation and developed rural areas, it has also resulted in increased animal suffering across the world. Whilst the internet has increased our global outlook and ability to trade internationally, social media and advances in mobile technology have changed social relations forever.  

Like in these examples, as we become familiar with transformative technologies, we can integrate them carefully and considerately into society. Policy enables us to farm responsibly with animal wellbeing at the forefront; balancing online and in-person interaction allows us to use social media safely and productively.  

Meaning that my second lesson was this: we need to experiment with AI so that we can understand how it can play a productive role in our lives. Whereas Giles encouraged us to think about AI as a tool to help us pursue our idea of a “good life”, Elliot encouraged us to find out more about effective polices and controls that enable us to achieve that life safely.  

Although I’m glad it’s not me doing a PhD in the topic, I left the event feeling more informed… and excited for the next one!  

Continue the discussion with us

The next instalment in the series of AI and Social Innovation events is on 5 June 2024, at 5.30pm, where Karen Gregory of the University of Edinburgh and Cailean Gallagher of The Worker’s Observatory will be discussing The Platform Economy 

Unsure of what the Platform Economy is, or just never heard the term before? I hadn’t either. You may not use the term “Platform Economy” often, but you use it in various forms when listening to your favourite podcasts, searching for an affordable bed ‘n’ breakfast, requesting a pre-hired vehicle to return home, or ordering food on a Friday night. 

So, how do these digital places work and what power do they hold to be so present in our lives? We’re cracking this black box on this roundtable, focusing on personal data rights, the consumer experience, and the role of the workers behind it. We’ll ask: how vulnerable are we in our relationship with these platforms, both as consumers and citizens? What socially innovative tools designed by workers have been created to ensure their autonomy under these circumstances? 

To attend and benefit from an accessible discussion around AI, buy tickets here

To find out more about events at The Melting Pot, as a collaborator, speaker or sponsor, email Sam Ross 

Author bio

Sam entered the third sector in 2016 when she founded a mental health and isolation charity, before developing her expertise in change management in charities and universities. Since then, she has managed change projects in Fife and been a change consultant for start-ups and charities. She is now the Business Development Manager at The Melting Pot Edinburgh, one of Scotland’s first coworking spaces, and is responsible for the development of their income streams, partnerships and consultancy.

Find Sam on LinkedIn.