ScotAISummit: “You should just ask us!”

“If you want to know how to make Artificial Intelligence work better for children…you should just ask us!”

MCP, age 10, from Stirling

This past weekend, myself, Gregory, Sandra, Frances, Kate and Cathy had the wonderful pleasure of supporting our 13 Investigator MCPs to attend the Scottish AI Summit in Glasgow. Their participation in the Summit was a huge success, despite the MCPs telling us beforehand that they did not feel confident sharing their opinions in front of over 400 adults. This was an exciting weekend of firsts- the first time the children had been away from home, been on a plane, seen alpacas, or eaten hummus.

The weekend began with a 3 day trip to the Attic, a lovely hostel just outside of Glasgow. We were all treated to such “firsts” as petting alpacas, watching the mountain views, the childrens’ first plane trip and a group “dream journey” before bed. We also worked very hard to move through all the themes of Artificial Intelligence and children’s human rights that the children have been exploring since the project began last September. On the second day, we were also joined by our partners Janis and Mhairi from the Alan Turing Institute.

The MCPs pulled together a workshop for adults to learn more from children about what the power of children’s human rights really is. They also teamed up to create the Children’s Parliament News Report, which they presented to the adults at the Scottish AI Summit in a plenary. It was quite special for the Children’s Parliament space and creative format to be brought into the Summit. You could see the adults’ faces light up with curiosity as they entered our conference space and saw the children get up on stage.

While this was special, the most powerful part of the weekend was, I felt, the incredible friendships that formed. It took the children all of 30 seconds to say hello to each other and begin to mingle, despite having only met online before. In fact, even in their school groups (brought together in the project from Shetland, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling) they weren’t necessarily close friends before coming to the residential weekend. By the end, they had all formed inside jokes and branched out across school groups.

After their input at the Summit, one of the children shared that they felt they had not delivered their section of the News Report as perfectly as they’d hoped. It will stick with me for a long time that all the other MCPs immediately pitched in to give group hugs and words of encouragement. As one said to them, “you were so brave and we are so proud of you.”

I couldn’t be prouder and more excited to continue to explore the relationship between children’s human rights and Artificial Intelligence with the children and our partners at the Alan Turing Institute and the Scottish AI Alliance. You could already see the impact of children being present in an AI policy and innovation space today, and I can only imagine how that will multiply as the MCPs grow even more in confidence and learning.

The MCPs’ key messages to adults during the Summit was to include children in the formation and regulation of Artificial Intelligence. Of particular concern to them were the ways in which, for children, AI can be unfair, unsafe, and unknown. They called on adults to include AI in education as a tool and topic of learning, and for adults to listen to children’s ideas on how to keep them and their personal data safe online and in their day to day lives.

Never underestimate the power of children’s participation in all matters that concern their lives. Adults shouldn’t just have the power to decide when and what issues children are seriously engaged in-as one of our MCPs said to the plenary audience, ““If you want to know how to make Artificial Intelligence work better for children…you should just ask us!”

Written by Sophia Georgescu, Project Worker.

Date: 30th March 2023
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