Innovating Ethically: Transformative AI Manufacturing Project Draws on School of Public Policy Expertise in Technology Ethics

Philip Shapira and Justin Biddle

Posted November 8, 2022

Artificial intelligence is a groundbreaking problem-solving tool that can spark tremendous innovation. But it also carries risks — from bias baked into AI algorithms to its potential impacts on jobs and inequality. That’s why two School of Public Policy professors, Justin Biddle and Philip Shapira, are part of the team engaged with the Georgia Artificial Intelligence Manufacturing Technology Corridor (GA-AIM).  

The project recently received a $65-million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to support a statewide initiative that combines artificial intelligence and manufacturing innovations with transformational workforce and outreach programs. 

“Our role is to help this big project anticipate some of the issues that might arise, which could involve bias, equity, human-machine relations, or other societal implications,” said Shapira, who also was involved in an earlier pilot project that led to the funding. 

Biddle and Shapira are involved in two aspects of the project. One is the transformation and expansion of the existing Advanced Manufacturing Pilot Facility at Georgia Tech into a new, larger facility to design and demonstrate the deeper integration of AI into the manufacturing process. In that project, they will focus on the early identification and mitigation of potential ethical and societal consequences of AI-enabled manufacturing systems. 

“We want to anticipate potential biases that might be involved in such systems or ways in which such systems might have unjust or inequitable impacts,” Biddle said. 

The other project is a community outreach component meant to “knit all of the other projects together to ensure that all communities, including historically marginalized communities, are engaged in this project and reap the benefits,” Biddle said. 

One of their first tasks will be to develop a white paper, to help the GT-AIM team enumerate potential concerns and begin discussing approaches to resolve them. 

“Could they design to better avoid problems? Could they roll out a different way? Could they train or outreach to people in other ways that might be more equitable?” Shapira said. 

The project’s principal investigator, Associate Professor Aaron Stebner of the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering, has stressed the need for the project to be equitable and lift all Georgians. 

“Infusing AI into manufacturing technologies and assisting the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow requires an interdisciplinary effort that will result in a tremendous impact on our state and our economy,” he said. “The entire team is committed to equitable outcomes that improve the lives of all Georgians, but in Justin and Phil we are especially fortunate to have two experts in ethics and innovation to design ways to measure and understand the societal impacts of this AI as we embark on this exciting project.” 

Biddle said he and Shapira acknowledge that Georgia Tech is increasingly making ethical considerations and responsible innovation a cornerstone of its work to advance technology. 

“There is a growing awareness, societally and at Georgia Tech, that it’s important to have people who have expertise in the identification and anticipation of ethical consequences and the mitigation of harms that can result,” he said. “This is an area in which we have expertise, and it’s important to us, and I think indicative of how seriously Georgia Tech takes these issues that we are involved at this early stage of the project.” 

Biddle directs  ETHICx, the Georgia Tech Ethics, Technology, and Human Interaction Center, which works to advance ethics-in-technology-centered research, education, and engagement at Georgia Tech. The Center is a partnership of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and the College of Computing. 

The School of Public Policy is a unit of the Ivan Allen College.

Contact For More Information

Michael Pearson
Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts