Thursday, November 16, 2023

In 2023, the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society’s (SRI) second cohort of faculty fellows completed their two-year terms, with each fellow contributing a research project offering insights into the social impacts of powerful technologies, including how artificial intelligence (AI) systems, chatbots, rehabilitation technologies, and the landscape of digital communications are transforming our world. Exploring the implications and effects of new technologies from interdisciplinary perspectives, the fellows’ projects foreground the significance of ethics, equity, and human-centred values.

In 2021, SRI awarded Schwartz Reisman Faculty Fellowships to four University of Toronto faculty members: Rosalie Wang (Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy), Ishtiaque Ahmed (Department of Computer Science), Jason Plaks (Department of Psychology), and Anna Su (Faculty of Law).

Schwartz Reisman fellowships support researchers in addressing pressing concerns at the intersection of technology and society, with the goal of advancing interdisciplinarity, new fields of inquiry, regulatory innovation, and the use of AI for social good. Faculty fellows engage SRI’s community through events and initiatives that facilitate cross-disciplinary connections, furthering the Institute’s mission to be a global leader in ensuring that advanced technologies serve the betterment of all humanity.

Anna Su: Bridging human rights and AI governance

Faculty of Law Professor Anna Su’s SRI fellowship research centred on the intersection of law, human rights, and digital technologies. An associate professor in the Faculty of Law, Su explored how human rights can be leveraged as a governance mechanism for AI and digital technologies, and surveyed the emerging concept of digital constitutionalism—including how the terms and conditions set by private companies shape our digital public spaces, and how a digital charter of rights could broaden existing human rights frameworks to the digital sphere and instil shared values such as equality and democracy.

“Traditionally, we understand constitutional law as principally limiting the state, but given the political and economic power of technology companies, the transnational nature of the digital space, and the pervasive role of technology in our lives, I want to develop some theoretical tools to understand how to make sense of this altered landscape,” observes Su. “In addition, we also have to ask about the role of human rights today and to what extent we should change our understanding of it to address these unique challenges.”

To help her students better grasp the role of international law in the governance of digital spaces, Su developed a new course as part of her fellowship, entitled “New Technologies and International Law.” She also presented her research at SRI’s Absolutely Interdisciplinary conference and served as an invited panellist at the 2022 Walter Gordon Symposium

Su’s research contributes to strengthening SRI’s strategic objective to develop new forms of regulatory innovation that can address challenges of complexity and scope associated with powerful technologies like AI. As new technologies continue to advance, it is vital that we understand how they impact not only questions of governance and policy, but also, as Su notes, if these tools might end up changing human rights law.

How to apply for Schwartz Reisman fellowships

The Schwartz Reisman Institute offers faculty and graduate fellowships on an annual basis, and welcomes researchers from across the University of Toronto’s three campuses to apply. Faculty fellowships span two years, while graduate fellowships last for one year. 

Applications for 2024 SRI fellowships will launch in early December 2023; until then, more information is available in our 2023 call for fellows. To find out about SRI’s upcoming call for fellows, please join our mailing list

Republished from the SRI website