CAIUS: Consequences of AI-Based Decision Making for Urban Societies

Research question/goal: 

The deployment of AI in decision-making processes has the potential to allocate resources efficiently and evaluate situations objectively. Drawing upon these advantages, municipalities employ sensors, cameras, and other AI-related technologies and applications to enhance their smart city infrastructures. However, apart from the desired improvements, such technologies may also have unintended consequences for urban societies: by exacerbating existing social inequalities or creating new ones, social solidarity of the urban society can be eroded. CAIUS aims to unveil such unintended consequences on a theoretical, empirical, and applied level: drawing upon real-world applications in the smart city context (resource allocation and service pricing), we investigate the impact of AI-based decision-making on individual citizen behaviour and human society at large. To this end and to advance theory on the digitization of society, we conduct social simulations modelling AI-based decision-making, citizen behaviour, and attitudes. The parameters for these simulations are empirically acquired through surveys and experiments. The gained insights are applied in two real-world use cases with local partners: (1) the choice of spots to install smart cameras for traffic law enforcement and (2) dynamic pricing of parking places. Ultimately, going beyond these specific use cases, we infer a general framework for the evaluation of AI applications in urban contexts.

Current stage: 

We established the theoretical foundations of the project  by reviewing relevant literature on technical sociology, agent-based modelling, and fair machine learning. Furthermore, we defined a framework for “impact-aware AI”. In early 2020, the Chair of AI offered a seminar on “Social Simulation”. A simulation model developed together with the students will serve as foundation for developing traffic models with dynamic pricing systems.

In September 2020, first project results were presented at the Congress of the German Sociological Association (DGS). In addition, a grant application amounting to EUR 1.5 Mio. was accepted by the Volkswagen Foundation within its initiative “Artificial Intelligence and the Society of the Future” in late 2020.

Fact sheet

Funding: 
MZES
Duration: 
2019 to 2023
Status: 
ongoing
Geographic Space: 
Metropolitan Region Rhine-Neckar

Publications