Emotional AI in Cities: Cross Cultural Lessons from UK and Japan on Designing for An Ethical Life

Lead Research Organisation: Bangor University
Department Name: Sch of Music & Media


Emotional AI (EAI) technologies sense, learn and interact with citizens' emotions, moods, attention and intentions. Using weak and narrow rather than strong AI, machines read and react to emotion via text, images, voice, computer vision and biometric sensing. Concurrently, life in cities is increasingly technologically mediated. Data-driven sensors, actuators, robots and pervasive networking are changing how citizens experience cities, but not always for the better. Citizen needs and perspectives are often ancillary in emerging smart city deployments, resulting in mistrust in new civic infrastructure and its management (e.g. Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs).

We need to avoid these issues repeating as EAI is rolled out in cities. Reading the body is an increasingly prevalent concern, as recent pushback against facial detection and recognition technologies demonstrates. EAI is an extension of this, and as it becomes normalised across the next decade we are concerned about how these systems are governed, social impacts on citizens, and how EAI can be designed in a more ethical manner. In both Japan and UK, we are at a critical juncture where these social, technological and governance structures can be appropriately prepared before mass adoption of EAI, to enable citizens, in all their diversity, to live ethically and well with EAI in cities-as-platforms.

Building on our ESRC/AHRC seminars in Tokyo (2019) that considered cross-cultural ethics and EAI, our research will enable a multi-stakeholder (commerce, security, media) and citizen-led interdisciplinary response to EAI for Japan and UK. While these are two of the most advanced nations in regard to AI, the social contexts and histories from which these technologies emerge differ, providing rich scope for reflection and mutual learning.

1. To assess what it means to live ethically and well with EAI in cities in cross-cultural (UK-Japan) commercial, security and media contexts.
2. To map and engage with the ecology of influential actors developing and working with EAI in UK-Japan.
3. To understand commercial activities, intentions and ethical implications regarding EAI in cities, via interviews with industry, case studies, and analysis of patents.
4. To ascertain how EAI might impact security/policing stakeholders, and organisations in the new media ecology, via interviews with these stakeholders and case studies in UK-Japan.
5. To examine governance approaches for collection and use of intimate data about emotions in public spaces to understand how these guide EAI technological developments, and to build a repository of best practice on EAI in cities.
6. To understand diverse citizens' attitudes to EAI via quantitative national surveys and qualitative workshops to co-design citizen-led, creative visions of what it means to live ethically and well with EAI in cities in UK-Japan.
8. To feed our insights to stakeholders shaping usage of EAI in cities in UK-Japan.
9. To advance surveillance studies, new media studies, information technology law, science & technology studies, security & policing studies, computer ethics and affective computing via: 24 international conference papers; a conference on EAI; 12 international, refereed journal papers; a Special Issue on EAI.

We will:
- Raise awareness of UK-Japanese stakeholders (technology industry, policymakers, NGOs, security services, urban planners, media outlets, citizens) on how to live ethically and well with EAI in cities, via co-designed, citizen-led, qualitative visions fed into Stakeholder Policy Workshops; a Final Report with clear criteria on ethical usage of EAI in cites; 24 talks with stakeholders; multiple news stories.
- Set up a think tank to provide impartial ethical advice on EAI and cross-cultural issues to diverse stakeholders during and after the project.
- Advance collaboration between UK-Japan academics, disciplines and stakeholders in EAI.

Planned Impact

By building on our current UK-Japan ESRC project network (2019), our proposed project will raise awareness of UK-Japan stakeholders on how to live ethically and well with Emotional AI (EAI) in cities.

Ethical growth of EAI requires engagement with ethnocentric social, normative, industrial, political and legal issues to promote beneficial over harmful applications. By raising these issues, this project will positively impact the following stakeholders in UK-Japan:

1. The AI Industry will benefit from our insights on cross-cultural normativity which will help companies, from the largest (e.g. IBM, Honda, Fujitsu) to start-ups, understand EAI investment opportunities in UK-Japan.

2(a). Policy-makers who regulate data and media content will benefit from our insights on stakeholders' practices and intentions, citizens' concerns, and governance issues. In UK this includes: Information Commissioners Office (data protection authority), Ofcom (media regulator) and advertising self-regulators (Committee of Advertising Practice, Internet Advertising Bureau, Advertising Standards Authority). In Japan this includes Personal Information Protection Commission (data protection authority).
2(b). Policy-makers in security will benefit from our research insights into security stakeholders' intentions, citizens' concerns and governance issues. These include National Institute for Defense Studies (Japan); multiple police forces (UK).

3. Legislatures will benefit from our insights on how to live ethically and well with EAI. From UK this includes House of Lords Committees on AI, and on Human Rights; House of Commons DCMS Committee, Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation. From Japan this includes Strategic Council for AI Technology (that created Japan's national AI strategy).

4. NGOs will benefit from our insights into citizens' concerns on EAI. Privacy-oriented groups include ORG, PI, Doteveryone, Don't Spy on Me and Big Brother Watch (from UK); PI Japan, local activists (from Japan). Groups tackling disinformation online include FullFact (UK), FactCheck Initiative (Japan), WITNESS (US).

5. Technology standards developers with global reach will benefit from our insights on stakeholders' intentions, citizens' concerns, and governance approaches The PI has excellent contacts at standards groups W3C, Internet Society and IEEE.

6. The public will benefit by understanding how EAI impacts cities-as-platforms across the next 10 years; and by co-designing qualitative visions for their city's use of EAI, they will have a voice in debates about the technology and their cities. This will inform diverse stakeholders in UK-Japan.

Stakeholders 1-4 will be reached via 2 Policy Workshops (Tokyo, London). This will lead to a bilingual Final Report with clear criteria on ethical usage of EAI in cites. The team will meet 24 individual stakeholders for bespoke talks to their sector.

Stakeholder 5 (technology standards developers) will be reached by the PI sharing project insights via Skype meetings with Working Groups, and via a Final Report.

Stakeholder 6 (the public) will be reached (a) via national surveys & Citizen Workshops. (b) Citizens' views will be fed to stakeholders in UK-Japan (in Policy Workshops), potentially influencing use of EAI in cities, and shaping citizens' experiences therein.

All stakeholders will be reached by our think tank to provide impartial ethical advice on EAI and cross-cultural issues. This platform for multi-stakeholder interaction will be staffed by the team and will use RAs for bespoke tasks. It will house a repository of EAI best practice and provide a forum for regular interaction between stakeholders and academics interested in EAI both during and after the grant.

A project website will house our open access journal articles, Final Report and social media feed.

Press releases and marketing depts. of 3 UK & 4 Japan universities will regularly communicate findings to media.


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