Ori Freiman, Ph.D.

AI Ethics | Trust in Technology | Technology Policy

I'm a post-doctoral fellow at the Ethics of AI Lab, at the University of Toronto's Centre for Ethics. My interests range from identifying how AI shifts power, to political and epistemological questions which regard AI governance and regulation. I currently focus on two lines of research: one is on the concept of trust in the context of a 'trustworthy AI' and its relation to regulation practices, policy-making, and ethics-washing. The second is on the topic of central bank digital currency (CBDC). I focus on how different technical choices and monetary functions can result in various social consequences and raise ethical concerns. In addition to my current academic research, I'm vastly interested in how cryptocurrencies and fintech shape and are shaped by traditional financial institutions and geopolitics.

My formal background is in Analytic Philosophy and in Information Studies. I submitted my thesis, The Role of Knowledge in the Formation of Trust in Technologies, to the Graduate Program in Science, Technology and Society at Bar-Ilan University. The dissertation deals with trust in two emerging technologies: conversational AIs - emphasizing interpersonal trust and anthropomorphism in human-machine relations, and blockchain networks - focusing on social governing mechanisms of reliable technical architectures. It explores different perspectives of trust, the role of one’s knowledge in its formation, and new challenges posed to contemporary theory of knowledge.


June 2022:

  • Organizing the workshop Trust and the Ethics of AI (June 20, online), where I'll also present my working paper Making Sense of the Conceptual Nonsense 'Trustworthy AI'. What’s Next?

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.