5 questions with… Daniel Rosiak, CWRU’s first postdoctoral scholar in ethics and AI/emerging technology

The possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI) are often met with excitement—followed shortly by consideration of ethical concerns. At Case Western Reserve University, that’s where Daniel Rosiak comes in. 

Daniel Rosiak headshot

Rosiak joined the university in the spring of 2021 as the inaugural Postdoctoral Scholar in Ethics and AI/Emerging Technology in the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, where he’s focused on ensuring technology acts with human interests in mind across wide-ranging fields. Specifically, he’s working to ensure community partners are engaged in meaningful and productive reflection and discussions of ethical issues in emerging technology at every level. 

“A major goal of the Inamori Center is to help ensure that all of these projects acknowledge and engage with the ethical dimensions of the work,” said Shannon French, Inamori Professor in Ethics and director of the Inamori Center.

Rosiak’s background in ethics, mathematics and the formal frameworks underlying AI puts him in a good position to tackle some of these trickier problems. A native of Maryland, he came to CWRU from DePaul University where he earned a PhD in Philosophy in 2019. He was also a Fulbright Student Researcher at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá and studied philosophy at Oxford University and University of San Diego in California.

“Having a background in philosophy, logic and ethics, and teaching for many years has prepared me to speak to these broader humanity-type questions,” Rosiak said. “I’ve also insisted on teaching across departments—and not always to students who know they want to pursue ethics—[since] it’s really eye-opening to gain other perspectives.”

Next semester, Rosiak is putting that approach to work in a Philosophy course called Ethics of AI. In the course, students will learn about the unique ethical challenges AI presents as they build the knowledge they need to navigate this unique space and formulate meaningful solutions to problems.

“There’s a lot of hype around the future of AI, and that’s real,” Rosiak said. “People will sometimes say things like, ‘How do we get AI to play nice?’ or ‘How do we get it to have the same values as us?’ and the fact of the matter is that we can’t anticipate everything that it will do,” he said. Instead, Rosiak suggests we need an ethical framework, a sort-of “Hippocratic Oath” for AI.

“The question we need to be asking is ‘What do we want the AI to want?’ It’s hard to answer on a number of levels because we need to have a good sense of this ourselves and have a framework for right action,” Rosiak said. 

In addition to his teaching role, he hopes to advance the field of AI with original research and contribute to grant and curricular initiatives across the university. He also hopes to initiate a number of cross-disciplinary research collaborations. 

Rosiak looks forward to collaborating with departments across campus, such as the Interactive Commons, the Human Fusions Institute and the Great Lakes Energy Institute. He’s also teaming up to develop ethics modules for computer science classes, joining a cohort of humanities postdocs and working with students in the Global Ethical Leaders Society.

Across his efforts, Rosiak hopes to confront the ethical issues that affect all of us on a daily basis. “Close collaboration between researchers working in many different areas is needed,” Rosiak said. “And we are uniquely poised to help bring together people of different backgrounds to tackle these bigger issues.”

Get to know Rosiak better with this week’s five questions.

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