The Gradient
The Gradient: Perspectives on AI
Suresh Venkatasubramanian: An AI Bill of Rights

Suresh Venkatasubramanian: An AI Bill of Rights

On the algorithmic lens, legislating AI, and making policy as a technologist

In episode 55 of The Gradient Podcast, Daniel Bashir speaks to Professor Suresh Venkatasubramanian.

Professor Venkatasubramanian is a Professor of Computer Science and Data Science at Brown University, where his research focuses on algorithmic fairness and the impact of automated decision-making systems in society. He recently served as Assistant Director for Science and Justice in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he co-authored the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights.

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  • (00:00) Intro

  • (02:25) Suresh’s journey into AI and policymaking

  • (08:00) The complex graph of designing and deploying “fair” AI systems

  • (09:50) The Algorithmic Lens

  • (14:55) “Getting people into a room” isn’t enough

    • (16:30) Failures of incorporation

  • (21:10) Trans-disciplinary vs interdisciplinary, the limiting nature of “my lane” / “your lane” thinking, going beyond existing scientific and philosophical ideas

  • (24:50) The trolley problem is annoying, its usefulness and limitations

    • (25:30) Breaking the frame of a discussion, self-driving doesn’t fit into the parameters of the trolley problem

  • (28:00) Acknowledging frames and their limitations

  • (29:30) Social science’s inclination to critique, flaws and benefits of solutionism

  • (30:30) Computer security as a model for thinking about algorithmic protections, the risk of failure in policy

  • (33:20) Suresh’s work on recourse

  • (38:00) Kantian autonomy and the value of recourse, non-Western takes and issues with individual benefit/harm as the most morally salient question

    • (41:00) Community as a valuable entity and its implications for algorithmic governance, surveillance systems

  • (43:50) How Suresh got involved in policymaking / the OSTP

  • (46:50) Gathering insights for the AI Bill of Rights Blueprint

  • (51:00) One thing the Bill did miss… Struggles with balancing specificity and vagueness in the Bill

  • (54:20) Should “automated system” be defined in legislation? Suresh’s approach and issues with the EU AI Act

    • (57:45) The danger of definitions, overlap with chess world controversies

    • (59:10) Constructive vagueness in law, partially theorized agreements

  • (1:02:15) Digital privacy and privacy fundamentalism, focus on breach of individual autonomy as the only harm vector

  • (1:07:40) GDPR traps, the “legacy problem” with large companies and post-hoc regulation

  • (1:09:30) Considerations for legislating explainability

  • (1:12:10) Criticisms of the Blueprint and Suresh’s responses

  • (1:25:55) The global picture, AI legislation outside the US, legislation as experiment

  • (1:32:00) Tensions in entering policy as an academic and technologist

  • (1:35:00) Technologists need to learn additional skills to impact policy

  • (1:38:15) Suresh’s advice for technologists interested in public policy

  • (1:41:20) Outro


The Gradient
The Gradient: Perspectives on AI
Deeply researched, technical interviews with experts thinking about AI and technology.