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Ethics, Equity Under Microscope at First Oregon State AI Week

Talks at Oregon State University about how to showcase its research and education work, particularly on academic topics with broader implications, yielded not just the first edition of an annual forum — but OSU’s inaugural AI Week.

Five days of events around artificial intelligence began Monday at the university, with a College of Science AI Showcase and a panel discussion on ethics and equity in using AI — the first in a series of AI-related discussion panels led by faculty, AI experts, and tech industry leaders from companies including NVIDIA and Microsoft.

The conversations come as the university continues to ramp up its research and educational programming relating to AI, Belinda Batten, OSU senior advisor for strategic initiatives, Office of the Provost, said. These efforts will be accelerated, she added, by having a supercomputer at the forthcoming Jen-Hsun Huang and Lori Mills Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex and through partnerships with tech companies moving forward.

“Having partners like Microsoft and NVIDIA is just amazing. They’re so willing to come down and engage with our students and faculty to help us in that mission,” she said. “In the long term, the ability to have a supercomputer here is going to be able to advance [research] in ways that are really exciting.”

AI Week precedes the groundbreaking ceremony Friday on the Collaborative Innovation Complex, which will house a supercomputer and facilitate research relating to AI. The center, estimated to cost $200 million, is funded in part with a $50 million gift from Huang, founder of NVIDIA, and his wife — both of whom are OSU graduates.

“We’re going to have the groundbreaking celebration for that facility, and so along with this, we decided, ‘Let’s go and create a week where we can showcase our partnerships related to artificial intelligence and showcase the work that our faculty and students are doing in AI,” Batten said.

The week will wrap with OSU’s first annual Global Futures Forum, which will feature insights from researchers about AI’s role in fighting climate change and AI in the workplace, among other topics. It’s not yet clear whether AI Week will also become an annual event. Batten said she hopes these discussions can help to demystify the emerging technology.

“We envision that forum to be an annual event to showcase [OSU’s] thought leadership and research expertise,” she said. “We will bring together experts from both OSU and from outside. … Our obligation now is to help create AI literacy.”

Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.

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