Ori Freiman, Ph.D.
Responsible Implementation of Emerging Technology - Policy, Research & Strategy
Responsible AI, 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, and social change. This website documents some of my activities.
My formal background is in Analytic Philosophy, Library & 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.
Spoke with Patricia Boal, host of Ottawa at Work - about 8 minutes radio interview on 580 CFRA.
Talked about the Bank of Canada's proposal for a Digital Canadian Dollar with Anne-Marie Mediwake on CTV NEWS - 4 minutes video clip (follow-up article here).
Together with Nizan Geslevich Packin, published an op-ed in Forbes against the growing trend of charging money for a human customer service representative (Titled: Automation's Hidden Costs: The Case Against A Paywalled Human Touch).
Published an op-ed about the Digital Canadian Dollar in the Toronto Star (originally titled "Say 'No!' to the Digital Canadian Dollar").
Spoke with Scott Radley, the host of a Canadian Radio show (on 900 CHML) & podcast for almost 20 minutes - about the risks of AI (link here, begins around the 23rd minute).
Began teaching my course on Current Issues in Policy and Technology Ethics @ McMaster University's Master of Public Policy in Digital Society.
Completed the Center for AI and Digital Policy (CAIDP) Spring 2023 AI Policy Clinic.
Together with many others, authored the 1266 pages long CAIDP's 2022 Artificial Intelligence and Democratic Values report. The report covers and ranks 75 national AI policies.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be the colloquium speaker where I obtained my Ph.D - at Bar-Ilan University's Graduate Program for Science, Technology and Society. It is an honour to have the chance to return and share my experiences with current students and staff. I presented my work on the potential democratic implications of implementing Central Bank Digital Currency ('New Money, New Data').
My paper about the Analysis of Beliefs Acquired from a Conversational AI was published in Episteme (a journal dealing with epistemology in the analytic tradition). In this paper, I point out that when natural language processing technologies are involved in the analysis of acquiring beliefs, our theory of knowledge is limited. This is a theoretical paper that contributes to the theory of knowledge. It is situated within social epistemology - the field of philosophy that deals with the social dimensions of knowledge.
My signature is on the Future of Life's Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter. The letter calls for a pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4; to develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols; to work with policy makers to accelerate development of robust AI governance systems. While the call to pause is radical, it succeeded to grab the attention to this most important topic.
Participated the Privacy & Access Council of Canada's Privacy & Data Governance Conference in Ottawa. My talk was about the democratic oversight crucially needed in Central Bank Digital Currency projects around the world, titled 'New Money, New Data'.
Gave the opening lecture for the University of Toronto's chapter of Engineers Without Borders' Moral Code Hackathon. This is the second year I participate this event.
Collaborated with many others to author a report by All Tech is Human about Technology & Democracy.
Participated in the online panel The Wake: Re-Imagine Privacy, and spoke about Trust, Privacy, and Responsible AI.
Participated in one of the largest real-estate conferences (Inman Connect @ NYC) as a panellist (AI Learning Lab). I advocated for Responsible AI - adoption of a framework for the responsible implementation of AI. How is AI different from other technologies? What are the potential risks? Where are the trends heading? Is it possible to program empathy into AIs? What are the undesired consequences? The video is available here.
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.
AI Policy in Israel: Together with Amir Cahane, Gadi Perl, and Tehilla Shwartz Altshuler, and on behalf of the Israel Democracy Institute, we published a response to the Israeli Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology AI Policy document.
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.
Our AI Policy response was covered by the Israeli newspaper TheMarker.
Began my Post-Doctoral Fellowship @ McMaster University!
The journal AI and Ethics published my paper Making sense of the conceptual nonsense 'Trustworthy AI'.
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.
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.
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')
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].
93 Collaborators, me included, co-created the latest All Tech Is Human public-facing report AI and Human Rights (report available here)
Organized the workshop Trust and the Ethics of AI (June 20, online), where I presented my working paper
Making Sense of the Conceptual Nonsense 'Trustworthy AI'. What’s Next? (video available here)
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'.
Joined The Radical AI Network.
Submitted a paper about the formation of beliefs acquired from technologies.
Formed a collaboration with Illinois Institute of Technology's Ethical and Trustworthy AI Lab.
Gave a guest lecture at a colleague's class (titled Technological and Social “Progress”: The Case of Central Bank Digital Currency).
Judge for the Moral Code Hackathon (organized by The University of Toronto's chapter of Engineers Without Borders).
Submitted a paper about trust and knowledge deficit.
Presented my working paper The Ethics of Central Bank Digital Currency (video available here).
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.
Joined as an organizer to the Ethics of Technology Early-Career Group.
Presented my working paper Ethical and Epistemological Roles of AI in Collective Epistemology at the Ethics of Technology Early-Career Group.
Presented my working paper The Israeli Vaccination Campaign Through the Prism of Trust at the 4S virtual session Corona Truth Wars: Testing and Contesting Knowledge in a Hyper-Mobile Pandemic - III.
Launched this website.
Began my post-doctoral fellowship in the Ethics of AI Lab at the University of Toronto's Centre for Ethics.