AI Hopes and Fears

07 November 2023

As part of the AI Fringe ahead of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s AI Safety Summit, members of the public were invited to ‘hop on a bus’ in Cambridge city centre to discuss their hopes and fears about the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in our lives.

Cambridge has been home to some of the leading thinkers in AI research and a recent report named it the most ‘AI-ready’ city in the UK. So what better place to bring together experts and the public for an open discussion about AI?

As part of a collaboration between ai@cam – the University of Cambridge’s new flagship AI mission –the Kavli Centre for Ethics, Science, and the Public, and the Accelerate Programme for Scientific Discovery, members of the public were given given a unique opportunity to share their views with leading researchers involved in the development, application and implications of AI… on board a pair of bespoke double decker buses parked on Parker’s Piece in central Cambridge.

Dr Catherine Galloway from the Kavli Centre said: “AI is already an inescapable part of everyday life – whether we’re asking Siri a question, getting recommendations on Netflix or our banks protecting us from fraud. But most of us have no idea how it works – and no one asks if we really want it, or if we are happy to have it in our lives.

“That’s why, with the world’s attention on the UK summit, we’re getting our AI researchers and members of the public on board together to ask ‘where are we going with AI?’”

“The mini conversations happening on the bus are a very non-scary way to explore what we feel about our shared future with this technology, and a chance to get curious about where it might lead us while we still have time to change direction.” Dr Catherine Galloway

The buses hosted the Kavli Centre’s Hopes and Fears Lab – an artist-designed , pop-up conversation experiment made of cardboard to encourage people to think outside the box on the big scientific developments that are shaping society. The event was repeated – minus the buses – at the British Library the following week (1 November) as an official part of the AI Fringe taking place around the summit. In particular, the members of The People’s Panel on AI visited the Lab as part of their deliberations.

In Cambridge, when people jumped on board, they were asked if they had a particular topic they’d like to discuss and were then introduced to one of the AI researchers for a 15-minute conversation. The main themes for discussion centred on topics that directly affect our everyday life including AI and work, AI and creativity, AI and health, AI and education, and AI and security.

The Kavli team captured the discussions through film and social media, with artist Tom McLean, who designed the lab, sketching conversations as they happen.

Jessica Montgomery, Director of ai@cam, said: “The Hopes and Fears Lab is a fun, accessible, and interactive way to be part of an important international conversation about the future of AI that is happening right now.”