Our Voices

Reflecting on the RFK Compass Fall Investors Summit: A Confluence of Minds on AI, Ethics, and Investments

  • By
  • Fanta NGom
  • John Kell
  • Camila Pelsinger

Exactly one year after OpenAI’s ChatGPT large language model-based chatbot went online to the public, leaders from the investment community, tech industry, and civil society organizations converged at the RFK Compass Summit on AI, Ethics, and Investments in the heart of New York City. The summit, held in partnership with Lucid Capitalism and BNY Mellon, served as a crucible for discussions that transcended conventional boundaries, dissecting critical questions at the intersection of human rights, investment, and artificial intelligence.

A core theme throughout the day was an insistence that the investment community must work to ensure that the implementation of artificial intelligence technologies does not exacerbate existing societal inequalities and bias. Speakers discussed a wide range of topics, including the impact of AI on labor and worker’s rights, bias and discrimination in AI technologies, and the role of LPs in mitigating the human rights risks of emerging technologies in their portfolios. A panel of institutional investors from pension funds and state treasuries discussed the tools they were using to influence a more responsible tech ecosystem and what they saw as the most effective financial levers to mitigate the risks of AI. Below are several quotes from some of our speakers on these questions.

RFK Human Rights President Kerry Kennedy shared opening remarks at the Summit in New York City, highlighting that newer innovations like generative AI use data from the world, which is riddled with discrimination and inequality. Conversations at the summit sought to balance “investor expectations with civil society’s responsibility to its citizens around how to best navigate and mitigate the risks and harms of AI,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy continued, “AI is also poised to transform labor, from its implications for workforce technology to the creation of new, and often unprotected workers, in the AI supply chain. And rather than exacerbate existing harms and gender and racial inequities, we need to ensure worker dignity and voices are at the forefront of decision making around the development and deployment of AI.”

In a keynote with RFK attorney Anthony Enriquez, Dr. Alex Hanna, the Director of Research at Distributed AI Research Institute (DAIR), said “We need fairness, accountability, and transparency, as well as really understanding what the dynamics are between different institutions when we’re thinking about the ecology of AI, AI creation, and deployment.”

Dr. Vivienne Ming, Co-Founder of Socos Labs, gave one piece of advice for investors in the room. As they explore AI technology they want to invest in, work to understand if the technology makes people better. Not just at the moment they are using it, but also when they turn it off.

“Think about where you want the world to be 30 years from now and invest in technology that will get us there,” Dr. Ming said.

In more immediate terms, there are a lot of immediate risks that companies, investors, policy makers, and advocates must focus on. Paul Barrett, Deputy Director of the Center for Business and Human Rights at NYU Stern School of Business, pointed out that in 2024, more than two billion people across 50 countries will go to the polls for elections.

“The risk is that generative AI will be used to basically supercharge the kind of disinformation that we’ve begun to see in elections in the past,” Barrett said. “Private capital and people in the investment community have a big role to play. You are the people who are going to be asked to—or will be asked to in the future—to finance much of this activity, and there are important questions for you to ask your potential portfolio companies.”

Anik Bose, General Partner of Benhamou Global Ventures, said innovation in AI is key to ensure that five companies don’t open a vast majority of the AI, developers, assets, and users. “I believe the fundamental issue that investors need to think about is democratizing AI,” Bose said.

Kade Crockford, Director of the ACLU’s Technology for Liberty Program, agreed. “As investors, unless you got into the ground floor at a company like Google or Meta, you’re trying to invest in an industry that is controlled by essentially five companies worldwide,” Crockford said. “Democracy and regulations that level the playing field are actually good for you.”

“I think that it’s really important for investors to be asking questions, not just about the fairness of the AI they are investing in, but about how it’s going to be deployed and what the problems are with the underlying system, and asking hard questions about how it’s going to interact with those problems,” said Laura Moy, Director, Communications & Technology Law Clinic at Georgetown University Law School.

Those questions should come frequently. Eli Mendoza, Partner of Siris Capital, said AI requires a special level of rigorous review. “How AI is utilized, broadly speaking within the context of our portfolio companies, is now an agenda item every quarter and you have to give it the same level of scrutiny,” Mendoza said.

Soraya Darabi, General Partner and Founder of TMV, shared that companies also need to acknowledge that AI models are not always 100% correct. A human should always remain in the loop to ensure AI models are used appropriately and without bias. “One of the things you should always think about is, what’s the worst case scenario if it gets it wrong? Are you willing to accept that worst case scenario? Sometimes the answer is yes and other times no, and that might have a significant financial risk,” Darabi said.

Skip McCormick, Managing Director, Risk & Control, AI Hub at BNY Mellon, admitted he’s worried about people misusing AI. But he’s more excited about the technology than afraid of it.

“The one advantage we have as a civilization is that we collaborate, it’s in our nature,” McCormick said. “Human intelligence plus AI is more powerful than human intelligence or AI alone.”

The RFK Compass Fall Investors Summit on AI, Ethics, and Investments was held in partnership with Lucid Capitalism and BNY Mellon on November 30 in New York City.