Professor Pina D’Agostino has been named the inaugural vice-director of a pioneering, $318-million, interdisciplinary research initiative geared to ensuring that cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are used for the benefit of humankind.
Announced April 28, the historic, seven-year project will also include six other Osgoode professors as members: Professors Valerio De Stefano, Karen Drake, Jeffrey Hewitt, Deborah McGregor, Roxanne Mykitiuk and Jonathon Penney.
The project, to be called Connected Minds: Neural and Machine Systems for a Healthy, Just Society, will receive $105.7 million in federal government support through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), with $82.8 million of that going to York and $22.8 million to Queen’s University, its institutional partner on the project. York will contribute an additional $126 million over the life of the project, with further contributions committed by other collaborating partners.
Osgoode’s legal experts will join thought leaders from eight of York’s Faculties and three of Queens’ to focus on how emerging technology is transforming society and how the identified risks and benefits for humanity can be balanced.
Dean Mary Condon congratulated all seven Osgoode faculty members for their involvement in the project.
“The legal expertise, innovative thinking and leadership experience of our faculty members, led by Professor D’Agostino, will make a critical contribution to this important research,” she said. “As we confront the rapid rise of powerful and potentially disruptive technologies like AI, our legislative and legal responses will help determine if and how they contribute to society’s well-being.”
Associate Dean, Research & Institutional Relations, Trevor Farrow also welcomed the news. “Pina has been an innovator at Osgoode and York for years,” he noted. “It’s really great to see the work of all of these Osgoode faculty members getting so much well-deserved attention and recognition.”
D’Agostino was also recently appointed by the Ontario government to the board of directors of the Toronto-based Ontario Centre of Innovation, which supports startups and helps commercialize research developed by Ontario colleges, universities and research hospitals.
Internationally renowned neuroscientist Doug Crawford, the York Distinguished Research Professor in Neuroscience, has been appointed as the inaugural scientific director for Connected Minds, while Sean Hillier, director of York University’s Centre for Indigenous Knowledges & Languages, will serve as inaugural associate director.
A key structural component of the program is an Indigenous-led focus. The project will employ an overarching decolonization, equity, diversity and inclusion (DEDI) strategy and will feature a dedicated Indigenous research space on York’s Keele Campus.