Fairness and Equity in a Digital Age

Fairness and Equity in a Digital Age

Launch Symposium
University of Toronto
Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society
Tuesday, June 11, 2019 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Myhal Centre for Engineering Innovation & Entrepreneurship,
Lee & Margaret Lau Auditorium, 55 St. George Street, Toronto


Technology is accelerating at a rate that seems almost impossible to clock. Artificial intelligence, digital media, social networks, robotics, and virtual reality have become an integral part of our human interactions and have the potential to change all areas of life dramatically. The more we use technology, and the more embedded in our lives it becomes, the more critical questions of fairness and equity become.

The University of Toronto’s Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society launch symposium, Fairness and Equity in a Digital Age, features keynote speaker Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. Professor Benjamin, a leading scholar of the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine, will join some of our thought leaders to explore the intersections between technology, society, fairness, and equity.

Register Online Here


8:30 – 9:00 am 8:30 – 9:00 am
Registration, Breakfast, Networking & Displays
9:00 – 9:05 am 9:00 – 9:05 am

  • Vivek Goel – Vice-President, Research and Innovation, U of T; Professor, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, Dalla Lana School of Public Health
9:05 – 9:10 am 9:05 – 9:10 am
Opening Remarks

  • Meric Gertler – President, U of T; Professor, Geography & Planning
9:10 – 10:15 am 9:10 – 10:15 am
Opening Keynote

  • Ruha Benjamin – Associate Professor, African American Studies, Princeton University
10:15 – 10:30 am 10:15 – 10:30 am
10:30 am – 12:00 pm 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
What’s Fair is Fair? Interdisciplinary Perspectives

This moderated panel will explore the differing concepts of fairness and equity and how they work/do not work in cross-disciplinary research and work environments. Speakers will address their work related to: normative aspects of technology, fair and responsible automated decision-making, fairness in business products, and indigenous data governance.

  • Kelly Hannah-Moffat – Vice-President, Human Resources and Equity, U of T; Professor, Criminology and Sociolegal Studies
  • Kathryn Hume – Director, Business Development, Borealis AI
  • Avery Slater – Assistant Professor, English and Drama, U of T
  • Janet Smylie – Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, U of T; Research Scientist, Centre for Research on Inner City Health, St. Michael’s Hospital
  • Richard Zemel – Professor, Computer Science, U of T; Research Director, Vector Institute
12:00 – 1:00 pm 12:00 – 1:00 pm
Lunch, Networking & Displays
1:00 – 2:30 pm 1:00 – 2:30 pm
The Challenges for Society

This moderated panel brings together perspectives from computer science, engineering, law, management, and art for a conversation about the challenges faced by society by rapidly evolving technologies. Questions to be explored include: what are the benefits for improving lives and how can we achieve them; how can we move forward with technologies in ways that are responsive to societal concerns; and how can disruptions be mitigated?

  • Jennifer Gibson – Associate Professor and Sun Life Financial Chair in Bioethics, Dalla Lana School of Public Health; Director, Joint Centre for Bioethics, U of T
  • Nicole Cohen – Associate Professor, Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology and Faculty of Information, U of T
  • Mark Fox – Distinguished Professor, Urban Systems Engineering; Professor, Industrial Engineering and Computer Science; Associate Director (Research), School of Cities; Founding Director, Centre for Social Services Engineering, U of T
  • Gillian Hadfield – Professor, Law and Strategic Management, U of T
  • David Rokeby – Digital Media Artist and Artist in Residence, Jackman Humanities Institute, U of T
2:30 – 2:45 pm 2:30 – 2:45 pm
2:45 – 4:15 pm 2:45 – 4:15 pm
The Future of Technology and Society

This moderated panel will explore students’ research interests regarding the complex normative questions that technological advances raise for our future; the opportunities and challenges of interdisciplinary exchange for student researchers at a multifaceted public research university like U of T; and the contributions that the Institute can make to support graduate student training and research.

  • Markus Dubber – Professor, Law and Criminology & Sociolegal Studies; Director, Centre for Ethics, U of T
  • Mohamed Abdalla – PhD candidate, Computer Science, U of T; Vector Institute
  • Ellie Marshall – JD, U of T; Articling student, Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, Civil Law Division
  • Nishila Mehta – MD candidate, U of T
  • Michael Motala – PhD candidate, Political Science, U of T
  • Rianka Singh – PhD candidate, Faculty of Information, U of T
4:15 – 4:30 pm 4:15 – 4:30 pm
Closing Remarks


Ruha Benjamin

Ruha Benjamin is an Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University and author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press). She has studied the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine for over fifteen years and speaks widely on issues of innovation, equity, health, and justice in the U.S. and globally. She is also a Faculty Associate in the Center for Information Technology Policy; Program on History of Science; Center for Health and Wellbeing; Program on Gender and Sexuality Studies; Department of Sociology; and serves on the Executive Committees for the Program in Global Health and Health Policy and Center for Digital Humanities. Ruha is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2017 President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton.

Her forthcoming second book, Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, examines the relationship between machine bias and systemic racism, analyzing specific cases of “discriminatory design” and offering tools for a socially-conscious approach to tech development.

Ruha received her PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley, completed postdoctoral fellowships at UCLA’s Institute for Genetics and Society and Harvard University’s Science, Technology, and Society Program, and has received grants and fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Study, American Council for Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine among others.

Her work is published in numerous journals including Science, Technology, and Human Values; Policy & Society; Ethnicity & Health; and the Annals of the American Academy of Social and Political Science and reported on in national and international news outlets including The Guardian, National Geographic, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Nature.

Mohamed Abdalla

Mohamed Abdalla is a PhD student in the Natural Language Processing (NLP) Group (Department of Computer Science) at the University of Toronto, advised by Professor Frank Rudzicz and Professor Graeme Hirst. He is affiliated with the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and the Centre of Ethics at the University of Toronto. He works with IC/ES (formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences) and Trillium Health Partners on clinical applications of NLP, and his research interests include representation learning, clinical applications of NLP, and dialogue systems.

Nicole Cohen

Nicole Cohen is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology and Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Writers’ Rights: Freelance Journalism in a Digital Age (McGill-Queen’s University Press), which won the 2017 Gertrude J. Robinson Book Prize from the Canadian Communication Association. Her academic research on work and labour in media and cultural industries has been published internationally in books, journals, and magazines, including South Atlantic Quarterly, The Communication Review, The European Journal of Cultural Studies, Digital Journalism, Feminist Media Studies and Frieze.

Markus Dubber

Markus Dubber is Director of the Centre for Ethics (C4E) and Professor of Law and Criminology & Sociolegal Studies, University of Toronto. His published work includes some twenty books and eighty articles and has been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, German, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI; at C4E, he has launched the interdisciplinary Ethics of AI in Context initiative and the Ethics of AI Lab.

Mark Fox

Mark Fox, B.Sc. (Computer Science), University of Toronto, Ph.D. (Computer Science), Carnegie Mellon University, is the Associate Director (Research) of the School of Cities, University of Toronto. He is a Distinguished Professor of Urban Systems Engineering, Professor of Industrial Engineering and Computer Science, and founding director of the Centre for Social Services Engineering. In 1979, he was a founding member of the CMU Robotics Institute and the founding Director of the Institute’s Intelligent Systems Laboratory. He co-founded Carnegie Group Inc. in 1984, a software company that specialized in Artificial Intelligence-based systems.

Dr. Fox pioneered the field of Constraint-Directed Scheduling within Artificial Intelligence and played a significant role in the development of Ontologies for modelling Enterprises. He was the designer of one of the first commercial industrial applications of expert systems: PDS/GENAID, a steam turbine and generator diagnostic system for Westinghouse. He has published over 250 papers and his current research focuses on the ontologies, common sense reasoning, intelligent agents and their application to Smart Cities.

Meric S. Gertler

Meric Gertler is President of the University of Toronto, professor of geography and planning, and the Goldring Chair in Canadian Studies. He is widely known for his work on the role of institutions in shaping innovation and local economic prosperity. He has advised governments in Canada, the United States and Europe, as well as international agencies such as the OECD and EU. He has authored or edited nine books and has held visiting appointments at Oxford, University College London, UCLA, and the University of Oslo.

He is co-chair of the Business-Higher Education Roundtable, a trustee of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, a director of MaRS Discovery District, and a member of the Board of Universities Canada. He is chair of the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities and a founding member of the Corporate Leadership Table convened by BMO Financial Group and United Way of Greater Toronto.

Among many other accolades, he is Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Academy of Social Sciences (UK), Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and member of the Order of Canada.

Jennifer Gibson

Jennifer Gibson is Sun Life Financial Chair in Bioethics and Director of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, Associate Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Bioethics at the University of Toronto. Jennifer has a PhD in Philosophy. Her program of research employs qualitative social science methods and normative analysis to study ethical issues in health institutions and systems. She is particularly interested in the role and interaction of values in decision-making at different levels in the health system. Currently, she is leading a new program of research on ‘Ethics and AI for Good Health’. Jennifer has served on government and policy advisory committees related to medical assistance in dying, public health emergency preparedness, public health surveillance, critical care triage, drug funding and supply, and healthcare resource allocation. She also works closely with the World Health Organization on global health ethics issues.

Vivek Goel

Vivek Goel is Vice President, Research and Innovation at the University of Toronto and a Professor in the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Professor Goel is a distinguished scholar with an extensive background in teaching, research and university administration.

He obtained his medical degree from McGill University and completed post-graduate medical training in Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. Dr. Goel obtained an Master of Science in Community Health from U of T and an Master of Science in Biostatistics from Harvard University School of Public Health. His research has focused on health services evaluation and the promotion of the use of research evidence in health decision-making.

Gillian Hadfield

Gillian Hadfield, B.A. (Hons.) Queens, J.D., M.A., Ph.D. (Economics) Stanford, is Professor of Law and Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Toronto. Her research is focused on innovative design for legal and dispute resolution systems in advanced and developing market economies; governance for artificial intelligence; the markets for law, lawyers, and dispute resolution; and contract law and theory. Professor Hadfield is a Faculty Affiliate at the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Toronto and at the Center for Human-Compatible AI at the University of California Berkeley and Senior Policy Advisor at OpenAI in San Francisco. Her book Rules for a Flat World: Why Humans Invented Law and How to Reinvent It for a Complex Global Economy was published by Oxford University Press in 2017.

Professor Hadfield served as clerk to Chief Judge Patricia Wald on the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit. She was previously on the faculty at the University of Southern California, New York University, and the University of California Berkeley, and has been a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, Harvard, Columbia, and Hastings College of Law.

Kelly Hannah-Moffat

Kelly Hannah-Moffat was appointed as Vice-President, Human Resources & Equity in October 2016. She is responsible for employment and labour relations with 28 employee groups, including 23 unions, four non-unionized groups, and the Faculty Association. Her portfolio oversees recruitment, organizational and staff leadership and development, compensation, benefits, pension, HR technology, and innovation and equity.

She participates in the creation and implementation of policies that reflect the University’s commitment to anti-discrimination, equity, diversity, and inclusion for all faculty, staff, and students. She was involved in the development of the new Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy. She has shared responsibility for the Personal Safety, High Risk, Sexual Violence Prevention and Support team, as well as for Campus Police and Crisis Management.

A full Professor in Criminology, her interdisciplinary research focuses on criminal records disclosures, risk algorithms punishment, and marginalized populations, and has impacted social and criminal justice policy on solitary confinement and institutional risk management practices.

Kathryn Hume

Kathryn Hume is passionate about building companies and products that unlock the commercial value of emerging technologies. Prior to joining Borealis AI, Kathryn held leadership positions at integrate.ai and Fast Forward Labs (Cloudera), where she helped large Fortune 500 companies apply machine learning to increase revenue and operational efficiency. A widely respected speaker and writer on AI, Kathryn holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Stanford University. She speaks seven languages and has taught courses on enterprise adoption of AI, law, and ethics at Harvard Business School, MIT Media Lab, Stanford, and the University of Calgary, Faculty of Law.

Ellie Marshall

Ellie Marshall is an Articling Student at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, Civil Law Division, in the Health and Long-Term Care Branch. Ellie graduated in 2018 from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law with a Juris Doctor and in 2015 from the University of Oxford, Oxford Internet Institute with an M.Sc. (Distinction). Ellie’s academic research focuses on digital government strategies and the pressing need for consumer protection law reform. Her paper “Critical Questions for Artificial Intelligence as a Means of Alternative Dispute Resolution” won the Nathan Strauss Q.C., Essay Prize in Legal Ethics at the Faculty of Law and her latest piece “Legitimate Invasions: Lessons from the History of Canadian Consumer Reporting Legislation” was recently published in Canadian Journal of Law and Technology.

Nishila Mehta

Nishila Mehta is a first year medical student at the University of Toronto, and a recent graduate of York University’s Global Health program with a specialization in eHealth. She has diverse interests in health technology, quality improvement, and health equity and has explored these through leading several research projects at Women’s College Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital in the past. She aspires to spend her time at the Center for Ethics exploring the ethical and social implications of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, with a specific interests in Ai’s impact on medical education and global health in equities. In the future, Nishila aspires to pursue a career as a clinician-researcher and become a leader in the Canadian health technology sector.

Michael Motala

Michael Motala is an Ethics of Artificial Intelligence Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Ethics, and a PhD student studying political science. Michael’s research interests lie at the intersection of law, economics, political science, and pragmatist moral philosophy. He is currently working on two concurrent projects: the first reimagines extant theories of corporate social responsibility and business ethics as they apply to the emergent platform economy, comprised of firms like Uber, Airbnb, Apple, Google, and Amazon; the second examines the political economy of global tax governance in the Atlantic economies, with a particular focus on the implications of global tax base erosion for national income inequalities, and by extension the fiscal social contract underpinning the modern liberal welfare state. He holds degrees from Columbia University, Osgoode Hall Law School, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and the University of Toronto’s Trinity College.

David Rokeby

David Rokeby is an installation artist based in Toronto, Canada. He has been creating and exhibiting since 1982. For the first part of his career he focused on interactive pieces that directly engage the human body, or that involve artificial perception systems. In the 1990’s he created work that explored the differences between machine and human intelligence, and has returned to that question in the past few years. His work has been performed/exhibited in shows across Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. He has received many accolades including the first British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for Interactive Art in 2000, a 2002 Governor General’s award in Visual and Media Arts and the Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica for Interactive Art 2002. His early work Very Nervous System (1982–1991) is acknowledged as a pioneering work of interactive art, translating physical gestures into real-time interactive sound environments. He is currently teaching a cross-disciplinary graduate course in theatre, emerging media and artificial intelligence at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies.

Rianka Singh

Rianka Singh is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. She is also a research assistant and former PhD resident at the McLuhan Center for Culture and Technology. She works at the intersection of feminist media studies, feminist geography and platform studies. Rianka’s work on ‘platform feminism’ has been published in ADA: A Journal of Gender, Technology and New Media and Feminist Media Studies.

Avery Slater

Avery Slater, B.A. (University of Washington), M.Phil. (Critical Theory/History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge), M.A., Ph.D. (English Literature, Cornell University), is assistant professor with the University of Toronto’s Department of English. She is a Faculty Affiliate at the University of Toronto’s Ethics of AI program, where her research focuses on contemporary questions emerging at the intersection of artificial intelligence and the humanities. Having completed the manuscript of her first book on late modernist poetry and the rise of computation (Apparatus Poetica), she is now working on a book that approaches recent developments in AI from the perspective of critical theory and the history and philosophy of science.

Janet Smylie

Janet Smylie is a family physician and public health researcher. She currently works as a research scientist at St. Michael’s hospital, Centre for Research on Inner City Health (CRICH), where she directs the Well Living House Applied Research Centre for Indigenous Infant, Child and Family Health. Her primary academic appointment is as a Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. She maintains a part-time clinical practice at Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto. She is a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario, with Métis roots in Saskatchewan. Her research interests are focused in the area of addressing the health inequities that challenge Indigenous infants, children and their families through applied health services research. Dr. Smylie holds a CIHR Applied Public Health Research Chair in Indigenous Health Knowledge.

Richard Zemel

Richard Zemel is a Professor of Computer Science and Industrial Research Chair in Machine Learning at the University of Toronto, and the co-founder and the Research Director at the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Prior to that he was on the faculty at the University of Arizona, and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Salk Institute and at CMU. He received the B.Sc. in History & Science from Harvard, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Toronto. He is also the co-founder of SmartFinance, a financial technology startup specializing in data enrichment and natural language processing. His awards and honors include a Young Investigator Award from the ONR and a US Presidential Scholar award. He is a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, an NVIDIA Pioneer of AI, and a member of the NeurIPS Advisory Board. His research is supported by grants from NSERC, CIFAR, Google, Samsung, Amazon, Microsoft, DARPA and iARPA.

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