Better Images of AI’s Student Stewards

Better Images of AI is delighted to be working with Cambridge University’s AI Ethics Society to create a community of Student Stewards. The Student Stewards are working to empower people to use more representative images of AI and celebrate those who lead by example. The Stewards have also formed a valuable community to help Better Images of AI connect with its artists and develop its image library. 

What is Cambridge University’s AI Ethics Society? 

The Cambridge University AI Ethics Society (CUAES) is a group of students from the University of Cambridge who share a passion for advancing the ethical discourse surrounding AI. Each year, the society choses a campaign to support and introduces its members to the issues that these organisations are trying to solve through events and workshops. In 2023, CUAES supported Stop Killer Robots. This year, the Society chose to support Better Images of AI. 

The Society’s Reasons for Supporting Better Images of AI 

The CUAES committee really resonated with Better Images of AI’s mission. The impact that visual media can have on public discourse about AI has been overlooked – especially in academia where there is a focus on written word. Nevertheless, stock images of humanoid robots, white men in suits and the human brain all embed certain values and preconceptions about what AI is and who makes it. CUAES believes that Better Images of AI can help cultivate more thoughtful and constructive discussions about AI. 

Members of the CUAES are privileged enough to be fairly well-informed about the nuances of AI and its ethical implications. Nevertheless, the Society has recognised that even its own logo of a robot incorporates reductive imagery that misrepresents the complexities and current state of AI. Therefore, from oversights in its own decisions, CUAES saw that further work needed to be done.

CUAES is eager to share the importance of Better Images of AI to industry actors, but also members of the public whose perceptions will likely be shaped the most by these sensationalist images. CUAES hopes that by creating a community of Student Stewards, they can disseminate Better Images of AI’s message widely and work together to revise their logo to better reflect the Society’s values. 

The Birth of the Student Steward Initiative

Better Images of AI visited the CUAES earlier this year to introduce members to its work and encourage students to think more critically about how AI is represented. During the workshop, participants were given the tough task to design their own images of AI – we saw everything from illustrations depicting how generative AI models are trained to the duality of AI being symbolised by the ying and yang. The students who attended the workshop were fascinated by Better Images of AI’s mission and wanted to use their skills and time to help – this was the start of the Student Steward community. 

A few weeks after this workshop, individuals were invited to a virtual induction to become Student Stewards so they could introduce more nuanced understandings of AI to the wider public. Whilst this initiative has been borne out of CUAES, students (and others) from all around the globe are invited to join the group to shape a more informed and balanced public perception of AI.

The Role of the Student Stewards

The Student Stewards are on the frontline of spreading Better Images of AI’s mission to journalists, researchers, communications professionals, designers, and the wider public. Here are some of the roles that they champion: 

  1. The Guidance Role: if our Student Stewards see images of AI that are misleading, unrepresentative or harmful, they will attempt to contact authors and make them aware of the Better Images of AI Library and Guide. The Stewards hope that they can help to raise awareness of the problems associated with the images used and guide authors towards alternative options that avoid reinforcing dangerous AI tropes. 
  1. The Gratitude Role: we realise that it is equally as important to recognise instances where authors have used images from the Better Images of AI library. Images from the library have been spotted in international media, adopted by academic institutions and utilised by independent writers. Every decision to opt for more inclusive and representative images of AI plays a crucial role in raising awareness of the nuances of AI. Therefore, our Stewards want to thank authors for being sensitive to these issues and encourage the continuous of the library. 
  1. Connecting with artists: the stories and motivations behind each of the images in our library are often so interesting and thought provoking. Our Student Stewards will be taking the time to connect with artists that contribute images to our library. By learning more about how artists have been inspired to create their works, we can better appreciate the diverse perspectives and narratives that these images provide to wider society. 
  1. Helping with image collections: Better Images of AI carefully selects the images that are chosen to be published in its library. Each image is scrutinised against the different requirements to ensure that they avoid reinforcing harmful stereotypes and embody the principles of honesty, humanity, necessity and specificity. Our Student Stewards will be assisting with many of the tasks that are involved from submission to publication, including liaising with artists, data labelling, evaluating initial submissions, and writing image descriptions. 
  1. Sharing their views: Each of our Student Stewards come with different interests related to AI and its associated representations, narratives, benefits and challenges. We are eager for our students to share their insights on our blog to introduce others to new debates and ideas in these domains.

As Better Images of AI is a non-profit organisation, our community of Stewards operate on a voluntary basis but this does allow for flexibility around your other commitments. Stewards are free to take on additional tasks based on their own availability and interests and there are no minimum time requirements for undertaking this role – we are just grateful for your enthusiasm and willingness to help! 

If you are interested in becoming a Student Steward at Better Images of AI, please get in touch. You do not need to be affiliated with the University of Cambridge or be a student to join the group.