Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grants

From AI Ethics to AI Aesthetics: Artificial Intelligence and Aesthetic Harm

From AI Ethics to AI Aesthetics: Artificial Intelligence and Aesthetic Harm

From AI Ethics to AI Aesthetics: Artificial Intelligence and Aesthetic Harm

Ethical issues raised by AI have become a major area of research and popular concern because AI systems can cause unintended ethical harms due to data bias and the opacity of machine-learning algorithms. So far, those theorists who have explored AI aesthetics have tended to focus on production; i.e., creative AI. Our innovative project seeks to explore the possibility that AI, most notably in the form of machine-learning recommender systems, can cause unintended harms by affecting our aesthetic capacities, choices and sensibilities. So, for example, a recommender system might narrow our choices about what art to consume or encourage us to consume what is popular and easy rather than what is valuable. In a different context, it might encourage us to develop personal beauty standards which harm mental health. As a multidisciplinary team, we will approach this challenge theoretically (by exploring the concept of aesthetic harm from both philosophical and neuropsychological perspectives), empirically (by running studies which explore the effects of recommender systems on beauty standards and mental health), and artistically (by developing works of art and arts programing that reflect on this issue). Our goals are to articulate the foundational issues in this heretofore unexamined domain of AI research, to empirically investigate the potential aesthetic harms of AI in one important domain, to develop ways of engaging with the public about those issues, and, ultimately, to lay the foundations for potential solutions to the problems of technologically-driven aesthetic harm.

The proposed interdisciplinary research project on AI systems and aesthetic harm will comprise (I) a series of introductory workshops to provide the grant team with the relevant background for work in the area, (II) the recruitment of four graduate research assistants to assist in research, (III) three robustly interdisciplinary projects (theoretical, empirical and artistic) that will result in research publications and art exhibits, (IV) the development of courses and course units associated with the research project, and (V) the submission of at least four major grant applications.

Team Lead

Aaron Meskin
Department of Philosophy

Team Members

Pengyuan Wang
Department of Marketing

Anna Abraham
Department of Educational Psychology

Isabelle Wallace
Lamar Dodd School of Art

Rosanna Smith
Department of Marketing

Carolina Salge
Department of Management Information Systems

David Slatz
Department of Theatre and Film Studies

Katie Geha
Lamar Dodd School of Art