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Undergraduate Collaborative Projects

Stanford Rewired

Project Lead: Jason Zhao (Philosophy; Computer science )

Collaborators: Enya Lu, Rayan Krishnan, Matthew Katz (Computer Science), Irene Han (Computer Science; English), Emily Zhong (Engineering-Masters), Crystal Nattoo (Electrical Engineering), Ben Esposito (Political Science; Philosophy), Alessandro Vecchiato (Political Science; Cyber Policy Center; Stanford PACS), Kaylie Mings (Product Design), Christopher Tan (Computer science), Mark Gardiner (Anthrolpology; PWR) 

Stanford Rewired is a digital magazine where technology and society meet. We publish themed issues quarterly, with articles, illustrations, and multimedia sourced from the Stanford community. Make sure to check out our first issue, Governance, at https://stanfordrewired.com/ and sign up for our email list to receive updates about events and open submissions! 

As an organization, we're rewiring the conversation to create a central space for thoughtful, accessible, and community-driven discourse around tech. Our five core values are: (1) Emphasize human and societal impact, (2) Amplify marginalized groups and voices, (3) Bridge academic and practical disciplines, (4) Curate a diverse collection of individual perspectives, and (5) Produce accessible, just, and intentional narratives. In line with our values, contributors of all backgrounds are welcome--no journalism or writing experience required. If you are interested in contributing, submit to us when our next round opens or reach out at hello@stanfordrewired.com

The PIT Lab at Stanford: Empowering the Next Generation of Thoughtful and Informed Public Interest Technologists

Project Leads: Constanza Hasselmann (Sociology) and Nik Marda (Political Science; Computer Science)

Collaborators: Jeff Ullman (Computer Science) and Margaret Hagan (Law; d.school)

The Public Interest Technology Lab (PIT Lab) is a newly-formed, student-facing organization that reflects on and advocates for a more thoughtful approach to the development and role of technology. They recognize that lines of code and chips of silicon are powering, and therefore shaping, systems and structures that affect real people. Hence, they believe Stanford students should not build technology in a vacuum, but rather should grapple with the broader political, economic, and social forces at play.

The PIT Lab envisions a Stanford community with the interdisciplinary and diverse perspectives needed to successfully build technology in the public interest. To contribute to this larger ecosystem, they host a broad range of discussions, classes, projects, research, and advocacy to help students explore public interest technology, grapple with its interpretations, and improve its implementation in practice. This includes projects around tech recruitment pipelines, research into racial justice in the tech ecosystem, and courses at the intersection of tech and policy. In turn, they hope to steer the development of technology towards the improvement of societal structures and systems.

Stanford Existential Risks Initiative

Project Leads: Vinjai Vale (Mathematics & Computer Science), Amy Dunphy (Electrical Engineering & History), Kuhan Jeyapragasan (Mathematical and Computational Science)

Collaborators: Henry Bradley (Public Policy), Zixian Ma (Computer Science and Biology), Felipe Calero Forero (Computer Science), Jack Ryan (Mathematics), Mauricio Baker (Political Science), Lucas Sato (Mathematics, Philosophy, and Computer Science), Jaspreet Pannu, (Medicine), Harshu Musunuri (Chemistry and Computer Science), Sydney Von Arx (Computer Science), Steve Luby (Professor of Medicine and Health Research and Policy; FSI), Paul Edwards (Center for International Security and Cooperation; Science, Technology & Society)

The Stanford Existential Risks Initiative (SERI), which was founded in January of 2020, is a collaboration between faculty and students dedicated to mitigating existential risks. Existential risks are defined as things that could threaten the long-term potential of humanity, ranging from risks causing suboptimal trajectories where ideal futures are not realized to ones causing extinction of the human species. Examples of the most pressing of these risks include risks from transformative AI, biosecurity/pandemics, nuclear risks, and extreme climate change.

SERI focuses its efforts in three areas -- student career development, longtermism and existential risk advocacy, and faculty engagement. In summer of 2020 we held our inaugural summer undergraduate research fellowship, through which a cohort of twenty Stanford undergraduates carried out research projects related to existential risk. We look forward to funding a second undergraduate research fellowship this winter, and to hosting a conference in the spring to aimed at bringing together existential risk-focused people. In the long run, we hope to initiate discussions about the importance of impact-oriented research addressing the most pressing issues, and to instigate a shift in the priorities of the Stanford community towards existential risk-focused research and careers. 

CS+Social Good Fellowships

Project Leads: Julia Meltzer (ethics in society; symbolic systems), Jessica Yu, Sasankh Munukutla (Computer science), Stone Yang (Economics), Andy Jin (Computer Science)

Collaborators: Valerie Chow (Haas Center for Public Service)

CS+Social Good, founded in 2015 and now running for its sixth year, is a student group on campus dedicated to maximizing the benefits of technology while minimizing its harms. The CS+Social Good Fellowship supports Stanford undergraduates in pursuing 9-week, full-time work experiences at organizations around the world that use technology to address social issues. Fellows gain firsthand experience working on social impact technology under the mentorship of industry experts, through which they discover impactful ways to leverage their technical skills in government, nonprofit, company, and job sectors that serve as alternatives to traditional tech roles. In partnership with the Haas Center, the CS+Social Good Fellowship provides stipends to cover students’ work expenses, and it has supported over 24 summer fellows in the past 4 years. 

The fellowship program gives students the opportunity to grapple with the ethical implications of technology through direct work. This EST Hub Grant is supporting CS+Social Good to meet the incredibly high and increasing student demand for the fellowship program, as well as to increase programming for fellows to reflect on and meaningfully address the practical ethical challenges they encounter in their internship experiences.

Opening the Loop and the AI from Above

Project Lead: Muhammad Khattak (Economics; Philosophy; Computer Science)

Collaborators: Joe Khoury (California Institute for the Arts), Michelle Elam (Humanities; HAI), Rob Reich (Political Science; HAI), Russell Berman (Humanities; Comparative Literature), Ruth Starkman (Writing & Rhetoric)

Opening the Loop is the tentative name for a documentary film being directed and produced by Muhammad Khattak (Stanford) and Joe Khoury (California Institute of the Arts). The film seeks to critically interrogate how broader issues regarding power, culture and our ethical priorities influence current developments of artificial intelligence. Primarily focusing on AI’s regulatory uses, it aims to shift away from predominant attitudes that technology is merely a neutral tool and focuses on AI’s slow expansion into the public realm. This is part of a broader project to promote non-technical engagements in AI.

In conjunction with the film, Joe and Muhammad are collaborating with Stanford artists and educators to organize an AI art exhibit and high school outreach program about the societal implications of AI. The latter is meant to introduce ethical questions about AI to the realm of secondary education whereas the former serves to promote unique engagements in current technological changes. Together, these three projects focus on the particular experiences that are oftentimes marginalized in popular representations of AI and aim to endorse more open-ended, philosophical and artistic means of describing AI in current conversations.

The Stanford Tech History Project

Project Leads: Julia Ingram (English), Nik Marda (Political Science; Computer Science)

The Stanford Tech History Project seeks to document how Stanford’s tech ecosystem has changed over the last decade. The project will crowdsourcing contributions from students with expertise in ten domains essential to the tech ecosystem: administration, culture, curricula, diversity, entrepreneurship, ethics, external relationships, funding, recruitment, and research. The students’ deep expertise within the communities and topics they are studying aims to provide a more detailed and nuanced perspective inaccessible to outside researchers and journalists. Contributors will analyze historical data and conduct interviews with alumni and faculty, culminating in a final report that will be published Spring 2021.

Ultimately, we aim to conduct the first comprehensive analysis of trends within Stanford’s tech ecosystem over the last ten years, while drawing conclusions about Stanford’s values, priorities, attitudes, and role in the broader tech ecosystem and society at large. The final report will propose recommendations for University decision-makers with an eye toward maintaining Stanford’s status as a top innovation and engineering hub, increasing diversity and inclusion, balancing the conflicting interests of external stakeholders, and creating more technology with ethics and public interest in mind.

Crossing Narratives: Tech and Freedom in a Pandemic-Torn World

Project Lead: Arianna Togelang (Economics)

Collaborators: Michelle Ly (Ethics IN Society; Symbolic Systems), Alisha Zhao (History; Political science; Int'l Comparative and area studies), Charles Eelsey (MS&E) 

In a time of extreme catalyzation of our nation's rate of technologization and polarization, our project will explore and address the gaps that remain in student understanding of free speech across interdisciplinary fields
 
Adopting legal, technological, and ethical lenses, the project will compile key insights from both individuals on-campus and community leaders working directly on these issues in government, non-profit, and private sectors to bring voices to the forefront of a disconnected student body. We hope to discover insights into questions such as, how do experiences with speech, freedom, and equity as it pertains to technology differ across student and expert perspectives? How does the growing role of Big Tech impact our different communities from human rights, economic, and legal standpoints? How does all this directly affect our students, and how can we best mobilize our student body to begin working towards these issues in their day-to-day life?
 
The project will serve as a multimedia platform to collect, analyze, and disperse crucial information on the impact of evolving technology on communities across the nation. We will work closely with students across all disciplines to delve into formerly unexplored gaps in how we think about these issues and integrate into them research-based information and interviews with community leaders, ultimately building a narrative of today’s freedom of speech that is comprehensive, powerful, and constantly evolving.