Challenge on Joyful AI

If it is to truly empower, AI must offer opportunities for all to experience not just more productive work lives, but more joyful ones. This challenge looks at the capacity for AI to foster, promote, and enhance joy, with a focus on marginalized communities.
(challenge-code MSR-C1)

Interdisciplinary social and cultural studies research that examines how computing systems interact race/ethnicity/Indigeneity has shown that technologies must be understood in the contexts of the social, political, and economic lived realities of racialized people and communities. What works for some does not necessarily work for all.

Understandings of inclusion and AI usually focus on harm reduction. This is of course important, but it is not enough. We also need to think about its capacity to create equally positive experiences for all. “Joy” is a concept of particular importance to marginalized communities for whom joy is often a powerful form of resistance. It thus works as a “North Star” for imagining AI that is truly inclusive. We have a fairly robust understanding of what harmful AI looks like, but limited understanding of “joyful AI”—AI with the capacity to actively promote or encourage joyful experiences.

This challenge calls for a researcher well versed in futurism to work with marginalized communities to develop new visions of community-engaged AI. These visions should identify underlying dimensions crucial to joyful AI and provide meaningful forward-facing ideals to guide and inspire further development of these technologies.

Additional Context

As a BRAID fellow you will be hosted by a team of social scientists trained in Communication, Sociology and Anthropology who bring critical, primarily qualitative, methods to bear on understanding sociotechnical dynamics. The research team is anchored in the Microsoft Research New England (MSR) lab based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

We invite research proposals that

  • drawn on fields such as media and communications, anthropology, sociology, design, literature/creative writing, and art. In particular, we encourage collaborators with expertise in:
    • Futurism: We are eager to find collaborators with expertise in how to do speculative research work with rigor. This might include people with experience in speculative fiction, prototyping, art, or other creative approaches;
    • Race, caste and Indigeneity: We seek collaborators with existing research ties to marginalized communities and theoretical expertise in the intersections between marginalized social identity and technology;
    • AI: It is important that this person have some familiarity with AI, though deep expertise is not essential; and
    • Joy: We would be particularly happy to find someone who also has expertise on the role of joy in marginalized communities;
  • deliver a set of visions for joyful AI that would provide AI developers with inspiration and perhaps guidance. Alongside any research papers, practical outputs could take several forms, including speculative fictions, prototypes, artworks, videos, or a journal issue or other publications; and
  • benefit from a flexible and collaborative approach.

Working Arrangements

How it will work

  • If the application is successful, MSR will work with the fellow to refine the project plan, agreeing on specific goals and outcomes as well as a timeline for shared collaboration milestones and a cadence for meetings virtually and in-person, as appropriate.
  • MSR will support the fellow in terms of onboarding and providing an MSR research contact and engaging in regular meetings.
  • MSR is set up for hybrid working but a level of in-person contact at our lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts would be beneficial, especially towards the start of the project.
  • We expect the fellow to factor into their budget proposal travel, accommodation and subsistence costs and any specific research costs they envision.
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