Public outreach event at Saarbrücken town hall

Yesterday, the final part of our three-day workshop took place: the public discussion ”Erklärbare Intelligente Systeme: Verstehen. Verantwortung. Vertrauen.” (Explainable Intelligent Systems: Understanding. Responsibility. Trust.) We were happy that the Saarland University president Prof. Manfred J. Schmitt accepted our invitation and addressed the audience at the beginning of the evening. In his address, he expressed his pride in harboring an interdisciplinary research project with its finger on the pulse of time.

In the main part, Prof. Silja Vöneky (co-director of the Institute for Public Law, University of Freiburg) shed light on issues in explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) from a legal perspective. Her talk was excellent, not least due to her rhetoric finesse. On the one hand, Prof. Vöneky explained the basics of artificial intelligence and the reasoning behind the call for explainable AI. On the other hand, it raised awareness for current European guidelines regarding the use of AI. In several instances, Prof. Vöneky criticized the existing guidelines as she considered them too weak to be used as strict ethical constraints. The audience was mesmerized by Prof. Vöneky’s presentation. However, it was particularly interesting to the participants from our workshop since it tied together the essential discussions of the three days prior.

Kevin Baum moderated the subsequent open forum. The discussants were Prof. Silja Vöneky, JProf. Lena Kästner (EIS), Dr. Clemens Stachl (LMU Munich), and Dr. Steffen-Werner Meyer (Deputy Chief Officer for Privacy and Freedom of Information for the German federal state Saarland ). Each participant in the discussion brought interesting ideas and information to the table. Yet, the debate made evident in how far the research on and implementation of XAI ask for a balancing act. Needs expressed by multitudinous perspectives have to be met to deploy and examine XAI adequately. Among the many needs, you can find that there must be good ethical guidelines, and societal trust in XAI must be fostered. Nonetheless, politics need to be convinced that XAI will bring about improvements to society.

At the end of the evening, the public could ask the discussants questions, which ranged from basic to advanced. The wide range of questions perfectly reflected the mix in attendants. Not only did scientific staff from different Saarland University faculties come but also diverse people from outside science. This mix was exactly what he had pined for when we organized the event.

To sum it up, our public event was the perfect ending to an engaging workshop. We intend to organize more events like this in the future and find ourselves in the planning phase already as we speak.

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