Chair Professor / Professor of Practice / Professor / Associate Professor

Ethical and Theoretical AI Lab

Chair Professor/Professor of Practice/Professor/Associate Professor (5 posts) (PR0410/19-20)


Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU), ranked 281 globally in the QS World University Rankings (QSWUR2023) and top 62 in THE Asia University Rankings (2021), has defined six interdisciplinary research laboratories to enable academics from different backgrounds to work together on common sets of problems and to contribute to the positioning of this dynamic and globally oriented University as a research-led liberal arts institution of worldwide significance.

Details of the six interdisciplinary research labs can be found on the HKBU Research website at: https://research.hkbu.edu.hk/organisational-structure/interdisciplinary-research-labs

The Ethical and Theoretical AI Lab is one of the six labs. One of the aims is to build research strength in the study of the ethical and social implications of AI and of related foundational challenges in the development of future AI. The focus on AI ethics is a natural choice in light of the existing mass of experts in applied ethics and humanities research at HKBU. It will also be a timely and significant endeavour, because the explosive development of AI technologies has already given rise to a host of challenging moral and societal issues. Future developments of AI are expected to pose grand questions about human dignity and, as some luminaries have warned, to expose humanity to a serious existential risk.  We are now shifting our efforts from making machines do more things to making sure that machines can do the right thing. This shift is exactly the research focus of the Lab.

The lab will also pursue key theoretical inquiries in AI research that are closely related to the theme of ethical AI. Examples include Explainable AI, Validation AI, and Emotion AI.

Details of the posts

With the above goals in mind, five senior scholars will be recruited in the immediate future to lead the Lab’s research agenda. Consistent with the interdisciplinary nature of the Ethical and Theoretical AI Lab initiative, these leading scholars will find appropriate academic homes in departments across the university, including, for example, the Department of Religion and Philosophy, the Department of Translation, Interpreting, and Intercultural Studies, the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing, the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Mathematics, or relevant departments in the School of Communication and the School of Business. It is expected that one or more of the five positions will be filled by applicants with expertise in mathematical modelling and algorithmic development, as these relate to central issues in theoretical and ethical AI.

Expertise in one or more of the following areas would be a major advantage:

  1. AI Ethics (the foundations of moral machines)
  2. Machine Behavior
  3. Cognitive Science
  4. AI Validation
  5. Explainable AI (and Symbolic AI)
  6. Foundations of Emotion AI/Affective Computing
  7. Computational and Cognitive Linguistics
  8. AI and Digital Humanities

Brief descriptors for these areas are as follows:

1. AI Ethics (or the Foundations of Moral Machines)

A number of ethical questions have been raised about the current or future AI technologies, ranging from the fairly specific issues such as algorithmic bias, moral decision making by machines, ethical standards of AI, corporate governance, legal framework and risk management, and surveillance, to the more general issues such as the moral status of non-human agents and the alleged existential threat posed by future, super-human AI. We are looking for researchers to tackle some of these questions. We are especially interested in scholars who specialize in ethics/the philosophy of technology or machine behaviour, and who have a good understanding of the relevant AI techniques and technologies. Also of interest are theorists who work on the formal principles of moral reasoning and automated moral decision making.

2. Machine Behavior

Understanding the behavior of AI agents is one of the pivotal challenges of the next decade of AI. Understanding AI agents goes beyond interpreting a specific algorithm and requires analyzing the interactions between agents and with the surrounding environment. Thus, machine behavior plays a decisive role in the study of ethical AI. We are looking for scientists with expertise in behavioral science and machine intelligence who are able to contribute to this important area of research.

3. Cognitive Science

Cognitive science is the study of the mind and its processes. Cognitive scientists study intelligence and behavior, with a focus on how human brains represent, process, and transform information. The key concepts of cognitive science—perception, memory, attention, and reasoning—are central to the theory of AI. We are looking for cognitive scientists who will pursue fundamental research on human and machine intelligence.

4. AI Validation

AI validation aims to justify the correctness of the outcomes of systems of machine intelligence, the emphasis being, for example, on a given system’s performance in accordance with human expectations about desirable action. Validation represents yet another set of pivotal challenges for the next generation of AI. Relevant research ranges from how to express human expectations with precision to how to validate the correctness of machine behavior. We are looking for scientists to lead the research in this crucial area of AI validation.

5. Explainable AI (and Symbolic AI)

Explainable AI aims to build AI systems that do not just output answers or decisions, but also in some way make the process of problem solving or decision making understandable to human users. Explainable AI is regarded by many to be crucial for establishing trust in AI systems, which, in turn, is an important step towards addressing certain ethical concerns about automated decision making. The prospect of making explainable AI by integrating symbolic AI with the connectionist paradigm is particularly promising. We are looking for researchers with expertise in explainable AI, human-machine interactions, human psychology, behavioural sciences, and decision sciences, and, ideally, experts in symbolic AI who are willing to work closely with machine learning experts at HKBU.

6. Foundations of Emotion AI/Affective Computing

Another exciting and challenging area of AI research that bears on AI ethics is emotion AI or affective computing, which is concerned with the construction of computational systems that can react to, simulate, or even replicate human emotions. We are looking for researchers who undertake philosophical and/or psychological theorizing of emotions, as potential foundations for emotion AI (or as a basis for doubting the possibility of machine emotions). Ideally these researchers will also be familiar with the technical developments in emotion AI.

7. Computational and Cognitive Linguistics

One area that is closely related to emotion AI is computational linguistics. The field encompasses computer-assisted corpus linguistics and morphology, machine learning as it relates to natural language, and natural language processing. Given the presence of expertise in linguistics/cognitive science as well as natural language processing at BU, we are looking for researchers who will add to and complement the existing strength. An expert in computational linguistics and cognitive science who also has an interest in emotion AI would be ideal.

8. AI and Digital Humanities

With the Faculty of Arts playing a central role in the Ethical and Theoretical AI Lab, digital humanities is a core element of the Lab’s activities. Broadly construed, digital humanities encompasses humanistic critiques of digital technologies, which also dovetail with AI ethics. We are looking for researchers with an interest in Gender Studies and AI (for example, the question as to whether and how AI technologies serve to reinforce or alleviate gender inequality), Human Creativity and AI (covering issues such as the transformation and/or distortion of creative activities by the use of AI, comparisons between algorithmic creativity and human creativity, and the value of human creativity in the imagined presence of superintelligence), and AI and Imagined Worlds (focusing, for example, on the role of fictional representations of AI in theorizing about the ethical behaviour of machines).

Colleagues recruited will have access to seed money and appropriate research facilities/support, as well as a generous array of competitive research funding from Hong Kong’s Research Grants Council, the Innovation and Technology Commission, and other external sources.

Interested candidates should have relevant expertise, a proven research record, and the readiness to contribute to an interdisciplinary research team.  They should be talented, motivated and committed to the Lab to make it a sustainable research hub.

The above positions are on tenure-track with initial appointment on three-year fixed-term contracts. Re-appointments thereafter will be subject to mutual agreement and availability of funding. Tenured appointments, if applicable, are expected to be attained within six years. Rank and salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

Prospective applicants who wish to discuss the positions and/or the plans for the Lab are welcome to contact the Co-chair of the Search Committee: Prof. Yi-ke GUO, Vice-President (Research and Development) at vprd@hkbu.edu.hk.

Search Committee members include:

Prof. Mark SHUTTLEWORTH (Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies)
Prof. Jiming LIU (Computer Science)
Prof. Chris WONG (Biology)
Dr. Ellen ZHANG (Religion and Philosophy)
Prof. Jiji Zhang (Religion and Philosophy)
Dr. William CHEUNG (Computer Science)
Prof. Christy CHEUNG (Finance and Decision Sciences)
Dr. Celine SONG (Journalism)
Prof. Xue-Cheng TAI (Mathematics)

Application Procedure:

Applicants are invited to submit their applications at the HKBU e-Recruitment System (jobs.hkbu.edu.hk) and send in samples of publications, preferably three best ones out of their most recent publications/works, statements of teaching and research interest and recent teaching evaluation results.  Applicants should also request two referees to send in confidential letters of reference, headlined “Ethical and Theoretical AI Lab” with PR number quoted to the Human Resources Office (Email: recruit@hkbu.edu.hk) direct. All application materials including publication samples, scholarly/creative works will not be returned after the completion of the recruitment exercise unless upon request. Details of the University’s Personal Information Collection Statement can be found at http://hro.hkbu.edu.hk/pics.

The University reserves the right not to make an appointment for the posts advertised, and the appointment will be made according to the terms and conditions then applicable at the time of offer.

Review of applications is ongoing until the positions are filled.

Hong Kong Baptist University is committed to creating a diverse environment and is an equal opportunity employer

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