Humans of SymSys: Zach Harned


“SymSys offered me a chance to gain experience and specialization in a few important cognate disciplines.”

Zach Harned is a new SymSys master’s student who is also a J.D. Candidate at Stanford Law School. He is the founder of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence & Law Society (SAILS).

What drew you to the SymSys MS program as a law student? 

Much of the legal/policy/regulatory work in emerging technology requires a multi-disciplinary perspective. SymSys offered me a chance to gain experience and specialization in a few important cognate disciplines. 

What's something cool you've worked on at Stanford? 

One of my favorite Stanford projects is the Stanford Artificial Intelligence & Law Society (SAILS), which I founded in November of 2017. Running this organization has been incredibly fun. We created a lecture series where we brought in speakers working at the forefront of legal or policy issues related to artificial intelligence. We were lucky to find numerous stakeholders to help fund our organization, including Law, Science, and Technology, CodeX, and SPICE. 

What kind of research are you hoping to do in the MS program?

I've been focusing my research broadly on the legal implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence. This is a large and expanding area, so I've been attempting to circumscribe my interest into two main areas. First is FAT/ML, which stands for Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency in Machine Learning. The second area is machine learning in healthcare. In these two areas, there are a variety of novel issues, technologies, and techniques continually developing, all of which have a high impact on society. I've submitted a few papers for publication in these areas, that hopefully will be released soon. I was very fortunate to have fantastic collaborators from computer science and medicine to co-author these articles with me. 

What SymSys-related topic are you excited about right now?

Right now I'm heavily focused on how machine vision applications in healthcare will impact legal liability and medical malpractice. This is a fascinating problem, with many distinct players, complicated and cutting-edge technology, and little precedent. I am investigating how this technology impacts physicians themselves, hospitals as organizations, and software or medical device manufacturers.