Ali has been an AI researcher for over 20 years, working on models of language and brain function. He has over 100 publications in these areas, including the book 'Sensorimotor Cognition and Natural Language Syntax’ (MIT Press, 2012). He has given many public talks on his research, including talks at TEDx Auckland (2012) and TEDx Athens (2013).
Ali has been interested in the ethical and social implications of AI throughout his career. In January 2016 he co-founded the AI and Society discussion group at Otago. Last year he talked to the Royal Society Te Apārangi on ‘How should society prepare for advances in Artificial Intelligence?’ He is currently coordinating a project funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation on 'AI and Law in New Zealand', together with Colin Gavaghan (Law, Otago) and James Maclaurin (Philosophy, Otago), which examines uses of AI in criminal justice, and impacts of AI on employment, in each case with a New Zealand focus.