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Anita Nikolich Encourages Asking Questions about AI to Combat Misinformation

Myths, false claims and reports of bad science can spread like wildfire on social media and by word of mouth, but scientists affiliated with AAAS programs are working strategically to combat science misinformation. In the video series “AAAS Voices: Countering Science Misinformation,” experts explain the challenges of misinformation on addressing timely topics such as climate change, technology and health, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists share how they combat misinformation and offer strategies for how their fellow scientists can productively address and correct the inaccuracies they encounter.

Artificial intelligence is something we encounter every day, according to Anita Nikolich, a research scientist focused on cybersecurity and the director of research and technology innovation at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. AI is a rapidly advancing field – one that’s “rife with misinformation,” said Nikolich, a 2020-2021 fellow in AAAS’ Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science.

Nikolich breaks down some of that misinformation about AI’s capabilities – it’s very far from being able to mimic a human brain, she noted – as well as the misinformation that AI itself can spread through bots and algorithms.

But she also encourages casting a critical eye on AI and asking questions about how AI systems are used, who is using those systems and what data is incorporated into them.

“We need to equip ourselves to ask the right questions to make sure that AI is developed in an ethical, in a fair and a useful manner,” she said.

[Associated image: David Ettinger/Illinois Institute of Technology]