It’s safe to say that artificial intelligence is changing the world. AI and algorithms are being used in everything from our hospitals to our at-home streaming services and have solidified a place in our daily lives. While AI is being talked about and used across industries around the world, the notion of responsible AI is a growing area of interest.
“We now have an unprecedented ability to collect, analyze and manipulate information from a wide range of sources,” Anjana Susarla, Omura-Saxena Professor in Responsible AI, said. “Every aspect of our life generates digital traces, and algorithms have been primed to spot every nuance or detail of our behavior and mine it for actionable insight.
“The ability with which businesses can understand this data is much more rapid than what each of us can easily comprehend, and it has far outpaced regulatory effects to stymie AI-induced monitoring.”
Susarla is renowned for her expertise in the economics of information systems, social media and AI, and she is among the IS Rankings’ top 25 scholars worldwide for her impactful research publications. She’s working to advance ethics and technology, uncovering the harmful side of unregulated AI, which can be biased and discriminatory and can spread misinformation like wildfire.
One of her key roles is partnering with the Responsible Artificial Intelligence Institute, a global community of corporations, nonprofit organizations, universities and experts, to deliver guardrails for AI and eventually offer a certification to ensure this technology is equitable and safe for all.
“While there are concerns about biases in algorithms, what is needed from a practitioner perspective is to distill awareness of biases into actual business decision-making scenarios and outline what-if tradeoffs so that business decision makers can proactively understand and address sources of algorithmic bias,” Susarla said. “We helped create algorithmic impact assessment methods that will help decision makers visualize and map sources of bias to business outcomes.”
Last year, RAII named Susarla its 2021 Academic Leader for her efforts to advance responsible AI in business practice and academia.
“This is the first time we’ve given out awards. It’s important to recognize individuals who have contributed to our efforts,” Ashley Casovan, executive director of RAII, said. “Anjana has brought her knowledge and expertise to advance our thinking. She has helped get students involved to understand what we’re trying to achieve, how bias affects things and to be able to apply that to our framework.”
Through RAII, Susarla has worked with executives from companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers and American Express, as well as partners from the World Economic Forum, to ensure better design of AI systems.
And she’s brought along Broad Spartan students from the M.S. in Business Data Science and Analytics program to understand exactly how biases are embedded in machine learning. Through her mentoring, Susarla is training the next generation of business leaders to embrace responsible AI and to lead ethically.
On the policy side, Susarla has also been engaging with groups like the National Association of Software and Service Companies in India and the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector, a division of the United Nations. She’s been invited to give a keynote on how telecommunication standards can address gender-related inequities at the World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in March.
Looking forward, Susarla is eager to continue her work to engage with RAII, industry leaders and policymakers to help build global standards for responsible AI, advancing the common good with uncommon Spartan Will.
“It is probably too late to stop this avalanche of digital information, nor reverse the move for businesses to micro-target every aspect of our lives from the expanses of our digital selves that we lay bare,” she said. “I see my role as raising awareness and bridging the gap between practice and academia.”