Ori Freiman, Ph.D.

Responsible Implementation of Emerging Technology - Policy, Research & Strategy

AI Policy & Ethics | Central Bank Digital Currency| Trust in Technology | Conversational AIs

I am a Post-Doctoral Fellow at McMaster University's Digital Society Lab, where I research at the intersection of technology, democracy, innovation, and social change. This website documents some of my activities.

My formal background is in Analytic Philosophy, Library and Information Science, and Science & Technology Studies. Until September 22', I was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Ethics of AI Lab, at the University of Toronto's Centre for Ethics. Before, I submitted my dissertation, about trust in technology, to The Graduate Program in Science, Technology and Society at Bar-Ilan University.


January 2023:

  • Participated in one of the largest real-estate conferences (Inman Connect @ NYC) as a panellist (AI Learning Lab), discussing Responsible AI and its possible effects on the real estate ecosystem.

  • Joined the Center for AI and Digital Policy's Spring 2023 AI Policy Clinic Research Group.

  • Presented at the Israeli CBDC Forum webinar, next to the most esteemed professionals, including CBDC project manager at the Bank of Israel.

More details: I argued that while the Bank of Israel is doing an excellent job regarding international collaboration, researching economic models, experimenting with technologies, and so forth - they have no ability or authority to research and deal with the potential democratic consequences of implementing Retail CBDC. So far, the Bank of Israel has been a pioneer and has led this project alone. It is crucial that others will now join. If the Digital Shekel project goes on, and we wish to implement it responsibly, we must:

➜fully acknowledge that it is not only a technological issue but also a political one;

➜re-think existing checks and balances throughout all state systems, and mitigate structural risks to democracy;

➜draw clear red lines of what will be possible, by who, and what not;

➜ensure the central bank's independence is kept in this new terrain;

➜constantly involve democratic values, such as maintaining financial privacy and serving the prosperity of all, in all design and implementation stages;

➜be more inclusive by going beyond the banking and tech sectors - to civil society organizations, academia, mainstream media, and especially citizens.

My presentation is available here.

December 2022:

More details: In late October, the Israeli Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology published the document "Principles of Policy, Regulation and Ethics in the Field of AI" for public comments. Here's the TL;DR of our response:

➜soft regulation, self-regulation and ethical principles are far from enough;

➜we have to design enforceable laws that clearly define red lines, warning Israel to become 'the backyard' of AI-related experiments;

➜Israeli regulation should be more in line with international efforts, especially those of the European Union; and

➜we advocate for a hybrid approach that maintains the human rights *and* risk-based frameworks; and argue that proper regulation must combine horizontal *and* sector-specific regulations.

November 2022:

October 2022:

  • Chaired the Cryptocurrencies and CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currencies) panel at The City University of New York's Transatlantic Blockchain Law, and presented my latest research, titled Responsible Implementation of CBDC, Part 1: Identifying Social Concerns.

  • Adjudicated at the University of Toronto Machine Intelligence Student Team (UTMIST)'s AI Ethics debate.

September 2022:

  • Participated the Canadian Science Policy Centre's panel on AI and Big Data's Impact on Justice, Human Rights and Privacy with people who shaped my views.

  • Published a short analysis titled Liability, Privacy, and an Arrested Developer: The Ongoing Case of Tornado Cash. In it, I discuss issues that regard: (a) sanctioning technology, rather than a legal entity; (b) liability of developers in open source projects; (c) preserving privacy by protecting anonymity; (d) the complex tension between regulations, financial privacy, and democracy. It was published on DataEthics.eu - a not-for-profit, politically independent, ThinkDoTank that promotes responsible and ethical use of personal data.

  • I am honoured and humbled that Tech & Law Israel invited me to speak with them about AI, liability, and the future of the legal system [a link to the original Hebrew interview, and a link for an automatic translation].

  • A guest in a colleague's class about algorithms & liability, commentating on recent Tornado Cash events.

  • Joined the Privacy Research Group at New York University's Information Law Institute.

August 2022:

  • My Fellowship at U of T ended. During the fellowship, I focused on two lines of research: (1) identifying how AI shifts power by dealing with questions that regard technology governance, policy-making, and ethics-washing; (2) the ongoing development of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) by exploring how different technical choices and monetary functions can result in various social consequences. Can't wait to see what comes next!

  • AI products cannot be moral agents. But people, corporations and governments can and should be was published on The Toronto Star. (Together with Nizan Geslevich Packin)

  • A research group I participate in - 'Healthy Online Conversations' - presented in the 'Conversations Online' workshop. We shared some of our experience as consultants for a leading company that designs a social engagement platform. The outcome of this workshop will be an edited book on the topic, and we are authoring a chapter.

  • Central Bank Digital Currencies could mean the End of Democracy was published on The Conversation and The National Post. I argue that central banks worldwide are racing to implement digital legal tenders. While they prepare for the day when the economic and technological benefits outweigh the risks, democratic considerations are hardly discussed in public - and this has got to change. (Originally titled 'Democracy is Beyond the Mandate of Central Banks')

July 2022:

  • Collaborated with Nizan Geslevich Packin to publish an op-ed in the Israeli financial newspaper - Calcalist, about The Rights of Algorithms and Assigning Liability to Software Corporations, a moment before the Israeli National Artificial Intelligence Program, led by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology, is launched [Hebrew].

June 2022:

Following the publication of numerous ethical principles and guidelines, the concept of 'Trustworthy AI' has become widely used. However, several trust scholars and AI ethicists argue against using this concept. It has been labelled as a "misnomer", "conceptual misunderstanding", and "conceptual nonsense". Instead, they often suggest shifting our paradigm from 'Trustworthy AI' to 'Reliable AI'. I explain exactly why and review existing criticisms about using the concept of 'Trustworthy AI'. Ultimately, ignoring the criticisms will likely lead to mistrusting non-moral agents. By doing so, AI designers, regulators, investors, and other stakeholders risk attributing responsibilities to agents who cannot be held responsible, and consequently, deteriorate social structures which regard accountability and liability. I argue that, realistically, the concept of 'Trustworthy AI' has already been widely adopted by the AI community - industry, civil society, policymakers, and academic researchers. Therefore, it is not likely that the paradigm will be shifted. If we wish to be practical, we should adopt a view of the field of AI Ethics as focusing on power, social justice, and scholarly activism. I suggest that community-driven and social justice-oriented ethicists of AI and trust scholars draw attention to critical social aspects highlighted by phenomena of distrust and focus on democratic aspects of trust formation. This way, it will be possible to further reveal shifts in power relations, challenge unfair status quos, and suggest meaningful ways to keep the interests of citizens in the era of the conceptual nonsense 'Trustworthy AI'.

May 2022:

April 2022:

March 2022:

  • Judge for the Moral Code Hackathon (organized by The University of Toronto's chapter of Engineers Without Borders).

February 2022:

January 2022:

I present what central bank digital currency (CBDC) is and how this new currency is different from the digital digits we see in credit card statements and bank accounts. First, I discuss the significant benefits of implementing CBDC and share some of the open technical decisions that designers of the system face. Afterwards, I focus on its development and implementation motivations - innovation from the fintech sector, and risk and competition from decentralized cryptocurrencies, centralized stablecoins, and currencies of other nations. Finally, I identify six categories of ethical concerns related to CBDC. My main argument is that using data from such a system leaves the door open for authorities to influence social norms through surveilling and controlling financial activities. Therefore, even in liberal democracies, giving up on financial privacy - the ability to trade without any third party involved - not only leads to the loss of anonymity but also to a constant risk of losing freedom.

December 2021:

November 2021:

  • Presented my working paper Ethical and Epistemological Roles of AI in Collective Epistemology at the Ethics of Technology Early-Career Group.

October 2021:

September 2021:

  • Launched this website.

  • Began my post-doctoral fellowship in the Ethics of AI Lab at the University of Toronto's Centre for Ethics.