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SU's Autonomous Systems Policy Institute Aims To Keep Technology From Outpacing Policy

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Driverless vehicles, drones, and other forms of artificial intelligence are starting to enter our lives. Syracuse University launched a first of its kind institute to study these autonomous systems this past May. The Autonomous Systems Policy Institute or ASPI plans to take an interdisciplinary approach, bringing a number of its schools together to focus on autonomous systems.

Syracuse University Geography Department Chair and Professor Jamie Winders has been named the director of ASPI. She's tasked with bringing together professionals from varying fields into one room, at the same time, with the goal of always keeping technology and policy in conversation with each other.

"You can't and probably shouldn't change the speed of technological development," said Winders. "But you can change who is at the table when conversations about what can we do, what should we do? Those are two very different questions."

Winders continued, "When we also think about who will benefit from these new technologies. What we want to do is create a space or context in which we can start to bring together these different parties across the technological development, across the policy and regulatory developments. And those two things are always in conversation with a critical reflection on the social implications."

Experts expect artificial intelligence to bring about a lot of change. The World Economic Forum has called the development of this technology the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Winders said autonomous systems can make a number of positive effects on society. It's predicted that these devices will make transporting organs and blood faster, rebuilding after natural disasters more efficient and decrease human's enviornmental impacts.

But there is also opportunity for deepening inequality that already exists.

"Is it going to be a form of credit card citizenship where if you can pay, you have those resources?" Winders said. "They make life much better. If you can't, you're yet again left out. So maybe your ride to work is even longer because you can't afford these new technologies."

Winder's hope for ASPI is that public good remains at the forefront, where public is broadly defined. She said the goal will always be to ask not only who will benefit, but who will be hurt.

ASPI will further develop over the summer and into Syracuse University's fall 2019 semester.

This post has been updated to correct spelling.