A Call for Cross-Sectoral Research
Sarah de Heer
Sarah de Heer, WASP-HS PhD student in Public Law at Lund University, shares her experience after taking part of the WASP-HS Winter Conference in Gothenburg on 15-17 February, 2023.
The overarching theme of the WASP-HS Winter Conference 2023 was ‘Challenges and Opportunities in Human-AI Collaboration’. A large theme that encompasses a wide range of disciplines, which became evident when entering the venue. Doctoral students from all over Sweden – but most importantly representing a broad spectrum of areas of study that covered distinct fields within STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and humanities – gathered at Chalmersska Huset in Gothenburg. The intent of the conference was to engage in each other’s research, which all revolved around one common research object, namely artificial intelligence.
The need for such cross-sectoral symposia traversing the boundaries of multiple disciplines cannot be overemphasized, especially when exploring a disruptive technology. This also includes artificial intelligence that has the potential to reshape society for the better but also for the worse. Recently, there are plentiful examples of harmful artificial intelligence throughout the world, which seems to be rooted in inadequate development or improper use. As a result, this has caused detrimental effects for individuals and society in general. Scholars appear to agree on one thing: such disturbing impacts are to be minimised, if not completely avoided. While this is an ambitious goal – but undoubtedly an indispensable one –, this aim can only be achieved by joining forces and conduct interdisciplinary research. Evidently, this type of collaboration may pose its own hurdles, not in the least breaking down your own specialised knowledge to a non-expert audience and identifying which concepts may hinder the public to engage meaningfully in imperative discussions. Moreover, grasping peculiar concepts and specific methodologies that lie well beyond your expertise and comprehending how this may relate to your own field of research may represent an even greater obstacle to overcome.
This call for interdisciplinary research comes hardly as a surprise since this plea has lately been echoed throughout not only academia but also the political landscape. Further, at the WASP-HS Winter Conference 2023, Maria Rönnblom clarified that a lack of knowledge is visible when delving into legislative proposals discussing novel matters surrounding artificial intelligence. This has yet again affirmed the necessity to engage in cross-sectoral collaborations. Consequently, there is still much ground to win in the domain of artificial intelligence. It is, thus, promising to see many early career scholars contributing to topics outside their own expertise by asking provoking questions and providing valuable feedback from the perspective of their own field of study. This marks the beginning of cross-sectoral understanding and hopefully the seeds of interdisciplinary research that is tailored towards creating and operating artificial intelligence to further society while abiding by societal values, including democracy, transparency, and fundamental rights.