ADAPT Centre Featured in 'Trinity Today'

19 July 2023

The summer edition of Trinity Today, a quarterly publication issued by Trinity College Dublin, has just been published and features a piece on the ADAPT Centre.  The full edition can be accessed here:

Preparing for Tomorrow’s World in AI

For so long, the world of artificial intelligence (AI) seemed only to exist in the realm of science fiction, but recent advances have brought its promise and potential pitfalls into our daily life.  On the one hand, programmes like ChatGPT offer the promise of an easier life with entire texts supplied from only a few prompts.   But it also raises serious questions about the ethics of producing content in this way, as well as about the reliability of the information being provided.  Applied correctly, AI has the potential to revolutionise our entire world, with everything from self-driving cars to personalised healthcare, but it also brings with it genuine concerns about bias and discrimination, privacy and security, and, above all, accountability and responsibility.  Tomorrow’s world has arrived so we need to start preparing for it.  Fortunately, Trinity has been leading the way in advancing our understanding of the social, legal, and ethical implications of AI through the SFI-funded ADAPT Research Centre headquartered at the School of Computer Science and Statistics.

Led out of Trinity, ADAPT works in partnership with seven other higher education institutions – Dublin City University, University College Dublin, Technological University Dublin, Maynooth University, Munster Technological University, Technological University of the Shannon, and the University of Galway – as well as with industry partners to collaborate on cutting-edge projects that have the potential to transform the way we use and interact with technology.

In recent years ADAPT has advanced Trinity’s reputation in AI, by becoming a world-leader in the area of human-centric AI, helping to ensure it is developed and deployed in a way that is ethical, transparent and inclusive.  Put simply, human-centric AI is a philosophy that places people at the centre of the development and use of AI, creating systems that are aligned with human goals and values.  In this way, it ensures that human capabilities and well-being are enhanced and not diminished, protecting us all from potential dangers and abuses.  By having a strong understanding of the social, legal, and ethical implications of AI, ADAPT is helping to provide an ethical framework to ensure that AI systems are designed that are transparent, explainable, and accountable.

ADAPT’s research has been at the forefront of this work and is leading the conversation nationally. For example, recent interdisciplinary collaborations have leveraged AI to explore diverse issues such as precision medicine, sustainable cities, and cultural loss (for example, through its involvement in the Beyond 2022 project, recreating a virtual record treasury and recovering what was lost in the fire in the Four Courts in 1922).  

So much of the public interest today around this subject is in the area of generative AI.  This is a type of machine learning that involves training a model on a large dataset and then using that model to generate new content similar to the original data. This can include everything from generating realistic images of faces to creating entire video sequences or even writing essays or news articles. While generative AI has the potential to revolutionise many industries – and perhaps even make some obsolete – it also poses serious challenges, particularly when it comes to the potential for the technology to be used dishonestly or maliciously. 

One of the major challenges posed by generative AI is the potential for it to be used to create fake content that can be used to spread disinformation or manipulate public opinion. This has important implications for everything from protecting our democracy to maintaining our academic values, and so it is essential that we develop tools and techniques that can help detect, mitigate and defend against the threats posed by these technologies and ADAPT has been at the forefront of this work.

Another challenge is in the area of healthcare.  Healthcare systems and providers have historically been impeded by legacy IT systems and regulations that stunt innovation and change.  However, the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the sector to become more agile and embrace digital transformation and AI to meet the demands faced by the healthcare ecosystem.  Drawing on Trinity’s broad expertise, ADAPT’s research is helping to show how data-driven decision-making can become the foundation for reducing costs, enhancing operational efficiency, delivering better engagement, and improving health outcomes. Everyone can see that change is coming and ADAPT’s multidisciplinary research is helping make that change possible in a way that benefits humanity and saves lives.   

This summer ADAPT held its annual ADVANCE event on 7 June 2023.  Marking its third year, the forum brought together world-renowned academics and industry experts on AI who exchanged ideas and insights as well as the latest research findings.  Focusing on the commotion caused by generative AI, the event took place in Trinity and addressed the transformative opportunities of AI along with the great challenges being faced by industries.  Viewed as the most significant platform in Ireland to discuss the future of AI research, it was widely praised for showcasing Trinity’s leading role in AI development, education and ethics, and for opening the door to a range of possible industry collaborations.

Following on from the inspirational leadership of Professor Vinny Wade, ADAPT is currently recruiting a new Professorial Chair of Computer Science (2016) and Director of the Centre. This person will play a strategic role in shaping research internationally and draw on the broad expertise at Trinity and across ADAPT’s partner institutions to realise AI’s potential and lead the conversation on ethics, law and fairness in AI. 

As Professor Dave Lewis, of the School of Computer Science and Statistics in Trinity, and current Director of ADAPT, has noted: “AI has the potential to empower individuals and communities, enhance our decision-making capabilities, and tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges. But it is only by aligning AI with human values, that we can create a future where technology serves as a force for good and not as a potential danger.”  Through its research, ADAPT and the School of Computer Science and Statistics at Trinity  is ensuring that AI is used in a way that is responsible, transparent, and ethical, something that will be increasingly important in the years ahead.