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The PIT UNiverse Newsletter

July 2024

Each week, we are confronted with new questions about the wide-ranging collection of predictive technologies now known simply as “AI.” Will AI help us slow climate change, or will its extreme energy costs only deepen the crisis? Will AI create new jobs and spread wealth, or further automate economic inequality? Will it revolutionize publishing, or kill it? Are any of AI’s promises real, or just a marketing play?

The tools and frameworks of public interest technology help us address questions like these beyond the merely discursive level to develop targeted interventions to steer the development and deployment of AI toward the public interest. In this issue of PIT UNiverse, four PIT practitioners weigh the upsides and costs of AI from their respective fields, and our PIT in Practice profile illustrates Carnegie Mellon University’s unique interdisciplinary approach to prepare public interest technologists to shape AI policy and deployment.

CMU is among our seven new PIT Career Fair grantees for 2024-2025 featured in the News & Opportunities section alongside exciting job and conference opportunities, and our Resources this month include an AI law casebook and a piece on demystifying AI for social workers.

Will AI Go the Way of the Roomba?

We’ve seen enough AI failures to know that the tech is overhyped. But does that mean AI is a waste of time and resources, or are there applications of it we should claim and celebrate? Four public interest technologists weigh in.

PIT in Practice: Carnegie Mellon

The tradeoffs of AI systems only recently jumped into the headlines, but scholars at Carnegie Mellon University have been working on them for decades.

Through new courses, degree programs and an interdisciplinary center, CMU is preparing young technologists and advising policymakers to steer AI toward the public interest.

Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) can be a vital tool for fostering voter turnout, and this August, the Spatial Analytics and Visualization Institute (SAVI) at San José State University is offering a virtual workshop series to empower election officials, policy professionals and researchers to pursue data-driven projects that support free and fair elections.

The workshops are now eligible Certification Maintenance credit from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Please forward this email or share this link with colleagues, listservs, LinkedIn groups and anyone who may find the workshops valuable.

AI tools present government leaders with both major risks and opportunities for transformation.

The Center for Public Sector AI is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization equipping government leaders and their partners with the tools, knowledge, and expertise they need to make thoughtful decisions about where and how to deploy AI and other emerging technologies to address their most pressing service delivery challenges. Learn more about CPSAI’s educational programs, expert-developed guidelines, and Project Clearinghouse here.

AI Law Casebook

Paul Ohm (Georgetown University) and two colleagues are writing a casebook (legal textbook) on artificial intelligence law to help students, professors, practitioners, and policymakers understand the emerging field of AI law.

Artificial Intelligence Law is due to be published next year, but the authors have released a tentative table of contents at their website. Paul and his colleagues hope to have a first draft ready by the end of August, 2024 and would be interested in workshopping the table of contents or select chapters at your institution during the coming academic year. For questions or suggestions, contact Paul Ohm: ohm[at]

AI for Transplant Healthcare

Researchers at Missouri S&T are working with the transplant community to build AI tools that meet their needs and values. A 2024 NSF-funded project aims to bring significant improvements to how kidneys are offered for transplant, while examining and addressing biases in AI systems used to support decision-making. The goal is to support the development of fairer AI systems that balance the needs of transplant candidates, transplant centers, and organ procurement organizations. In particular, the team is working to develop AI tools that take into account and mitigate historical racial bias in kidney transplants. Learn more here.

The team will share project findings at a jointly-hosted symposium with St. Louis University in late November, 2024. Reach out to Casey Canfield if you are interested in learning more or collaborating in this area: canfieldci[at]

Demystifying AI for Social Workers

AI tools have infiltrated child welfare, older adult services, disability services, therapy and behavioral health and others – oftentimes without notice. Furthermore, social workers whose expertise is caring for these populations report low understanding of what AI is and how it works. Lauri Goldkind (Fordham University) and two colleagues a new explainer piece for social workers that breaks down the history of AI, how it works, and what questions practitioners can ask to interrogate how AI is affecting the people they work with.

Using AI in Advocacy

A new report from Stony Brook University identifies three major opportunities and accompanying risks, plus one strong recommendation for advocates considering using AI. The report, developed by professor Matthew Salzano in collaboration with students, argues that AI can be useful for advocates, but they must be careful to center human judgment and avoid risks that could distract from their important work or even contribute to societal harms. The report includes a few handy tables of questions for advocates to use as they consider using different AI tools in their work. Learn more here.

Congratulations to our seven new PIT Career Fair Grantees! Carnegie Mellon University, The Ohio State University, Temple University, The University of Texas at Austin, San José State University and William & Mary will host fairs starting September 3rd, 2024 through 2025. Learn more here.

Attending the EASST-4S Conference in Amsterdam next week? Connect with PIT-UN Strategic Partner Afua Bruce and MC Forelle (University of Virginia) at their workshop “STS + Public Interest Technology: Exploring intersections and building capacity.” The workshop takes place from 16:00 to 17:30 local time Friday, July 19, in Room NU-5A57. Learn more and bookmark the session.

The 2024 New England Computing & Data Science Rising Stars program at Boston University is aimed at supporting doctoral students and postdocs from particularly underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds who will be entering the academic job market within one to two years. Emerging public interest technology scholars from computing and data sciences, engineering, or math interested in pursuing academic careers are encouraged to apply by July 15.

San José State University is hiring a Postdoctoral Fellow for AI for Civic and Social Good. Among other duties, the fellow will run professional development workshops for faculty and staff, facilitate the development of an AI microcredential, and champion collaborative projects with the City of San José. Learn more and apply by July 22

UC Berkeley’s College of Computing, Data Science, and Society hosted a May 29 summit on generative AI and its impacts. In partnership with two California state agencies and Stanford University’s Institute for Human-Centered AI, the program featured California Governor Gavin Newsom and leaders representing technology, government, academia and civic organizations discussing how to responsibly implement and incorporate shared benefits of AI into the next wave of investments, discoveries and partnerships. Learn more and watch video from the summit

AI designers and regulators should seek out partnerships with marginalized communities Shobhita Parthasharathy and Jared Katzman (University of Michigan) argue in a new piece for ISSUES in Science and Technology. Community agendas for AI, socially committed research and community capacity building are among the strategies they outline for advancing AI technologies that meaningfully address social inequalities. Read more.

The White House Presidential Innovation Fellows program welcomed 11 new fellows to lead the way for responsible and effective use of AI at eight agencies across the federal government. The AI PIFs will use their diverse backgrounds and past experiences in data design, governance, and security to make AI work for all Americans. Check out their website to learn more about this new cohort.

Queer in AI aims to make the AI community a safe and inclusive place that welcomes, supports, and values LGBTQIA2S+ people. Recently, a subset of members founded Queer in Robotics, which encompasses multiple fields beyond AI, including mechanical, biomedical, and electrical engineering; interactive design; psychology; and sociology. In its inaugural year, QiR has focused on organizing events at major robotics conferences for queer individuals to socialize, network, and feel part of the robotics community. Learn more about the launch of QiR and connect with the community here.

Interested in writing for this newsletter, or having your program featured?

We’re seeking writers and projects for…

  • September: PIT & Climate Change (submissions due Aug 15)
  • October: Civic Engagement & Elections (Submissions due Sep 19)

Fill out this form, and we’ll be in touch.

Andreen & the PIT-UN Team

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