Zoom video image of five university, industry and machine learning experts participating in a virtual forum.
Zoom video image of five university, industry and machine learning experts participating in a virtual forum.
Panelists discuss an international view of Smart Cities at Good Systems’ Week with the World Economic Forum

In March 2021, Good Systems hosted a first-of-its-kind event with the World Economic Forum, inviting researchers and industry leaders to talk about government procurement of artificial intelligence, or — simply — how state, local, and federal government agencies buy AI technologies like computer vision, used for everything from autonomous vehicles and facial recognition, and natural language processing for things like virtual assistants or chatbots. Because we live in a world where artificial intelligence is rapidly finding its way into all facets of our lives, it’s critical that we consider the long-term ramifications and ethical implications of those technologies.

But governments…


By Tina Lassiter

Chairs surround a table in a board room.
Chairs surround a table in a board room.

Issues surrounding the ethical uses of AI make front page news all the time. In 2020, Amazon paused police use of facial recognition software because of rising criticism from civil rights activists about its tendency to misidentify Black and Hispanic people. The use of video surveillance tools to create smart cities has raised privacy concerns as well, like when using cameras to improve traffic flows. Films like “Coded Bias” or “The Social Dilemma” raise questions about the implicit bias in AI and on social media [when people unconsciously hold attitudes toward others or associate stereotypes with them]…


Two surveillance cameras collect video footage.
Two surveillance cameras collect video footage.
Surveillance cameras collect video footage. Photo credit: Michal Jakubowski

You might not know it, but surveillance is happening all around us all the time. Businesses, governments, and nonstate actors are gathering information — whether it’s to sell us something on social media or screen us when we apply for a home loan. Researchers from both The University of Texas at Austin and New York University participated in a Good Systems panel last month where they discussed various types of surveillance. We caught up with a few of them to find out more about this sometimes obvious (but often elusive) practice. …


By Mary Huber

Maria De-Arteaga, McCombs School of Business and Good Systems researcher, stands next to a brightly lit window.
Maria De-Arteaga, McCombs School of Business and Good Systems researcher, stands next to a brightly lit window.
Maria De-Arteaga, assistant professor in the McCombs School of Business, has devoted her career to understanding the risks and opportunities of using machine learning to support decision-making in high-stakes settings.

Maria De-Arteaga was working remotely as an investigative journalist in Madrid when she realized that data mining and machine learning could help to uncover social problems in the developing world. She was looking into a highway that Brazil had built through the Amazon rainforest to reach a port on the Pacific Ocean. She was scanning hundreds of contracts and spreadsheets, hunting for financial anomalies between what was promised in contracts and what was actually delivered. She thought there had to be a better way.

De-Arteaga thought machine learning would more quickly allow her to recognize patterns and…


By Keri Stephens

A laptop and two smart phones sit on a table.
A laptop and two smart phones sit on a table.
Electronic devices. Photo by Keri Stephens.

Keri Stephens, a University of Texas at Austin professor in organizational communication technology, is a Good Systems Grand Challenge researcher whose work has centered around the role of technology in organizations, particularly in the context of crisis, disaster, and health. Here, Stephens discusses the effects of using personal mobile devices for work and how to secure data while also maintaining privacy.

When I was in graduate school, I remember standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, watching a toddler get her mom’s phone from her purse, type in her password and start playing games. Her…


By Mary Huber

A Jackal robot delivers lemonade on The University of Texas at Austin campus.
A Jackal robot delivers lemonade on The University of Texas at Austin campus.
A Jackal robot delivers lemonade on The University of Texas at Austin campus.

When we think of the robots in practical use today, the most common are stationary robots that help assemble parts in automotive factories or can assist in performing delicate medical surgeries.

Building a robot that can move within the human world with all its unpredictable variables, like self-driving cars, is oftentimes more difficult.

Researchers and students led by Associate Professor Junfeng Jiao at The University of Texas at Austin have been taking that challenge — crafting robots that students can call up via an iOS app to perform contactless deliveries on campus, much like Uber and Lyft.


By: Mary Huber

Amazon Echo.
Amazon Echo.
Amazon Echo. Photo courtesy of Adam Bowie.

As digital assistants like Siri and Alexa become more common in our lives, people increasingly see them as companions that accompany them throughout their day. Young children, especially, are more apt to see these devices as real people or friends.

University of Texas researcher S. Craig Watkins, Journalism and Media professor in the Moody College of Communication, says that’s why it is more important than ever that these devices reflect the diverse backgrounds of their users.

Watkins and his team have been studying how Black and LatinX children ages 8 to 12 experience digital assistants as part…


By: Mary Huber

Hands typing on a keyboard.
Hands typing on a keyboard.
Hands typing on a keyboard. Photo courtesy of Fernando Filho.

Libraries and archives keep the stories of our past alive into the future. But they don’t tell all stories. Some communities are overlooked, and this is where digital platforms like Instagram and Twitter have increasingly started to fill in the gaps — telling the stories of groups who aren’t well documented and even those stories that get erased through internet censorship.

Information scientists Lucy Flamm and Dr. Amelia Acker at The University of Texas at Austin have been looking at these community archives — digital records created by individuals rather than libraries — to better understand how…


By Kenneth Fleischmann and Junfeng Jiao

Good Systems Outgoing Executive Team Chair Kenneth Fleischmann (left) and Chair-Elect Junfeng Jiao (right).
Good Systems Outgoing Executive Team Chair Kenneth Fleischmann (left) and Chair-Elect Junfeng Jiao (right).
Good Systems Outgoing Executive Team Chair Kenneth Fleischmann (left) and Chair-Elect Junfeng Jiao (right).

From Good Systems Outgoing Executive Team Chair and Founding Member Kenneth Fleischmann:

Interdisciplinarity runs in my blood. I have degrees in computer science, anthropology, and science and technology studies along with a faculty appointment as a professor in the School of Information. However, I never imagined having the opportunity to be involved in interdisciplinary research at the scale that I have with Good Systems.

It has been a pleasure and honor to have had the opportunity to be involved in the grand challenge from the start as the executive team’s founding chair. As I prepare to pass the torch to Chair-Elect Junfeng Jiao, associate professor in…


UT researcher says Trump app borders on “nefarious surveillance”

President Donald Trump (left) and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden (right) each have their own campaign apps.

Former White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove said in November that Republicans and Democrats are in an arms race for data that will determine the course of American elections.

Over the past two decades, candidates from the two parties have worked to amass as much information about their constituents as humanly possible to put them at the greatest advantage to win elections and influence voters. They’ve done this using our voter registration records, census data, purchase histories, and social media profiles.

University of Texas journalism assistant professor Samuel Woolley says…

Good Systems

We're an interdisciplinary grand challenge team at @UTAustin seeking to ensure that A.I. is designed to be compatible with human values.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store