Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology Lecture Series - Don Howard: Big Data, AI, and Civic Virtue

Wednesday, March 6, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
Venue: JO 2.604
Admission: Free
Season: 2018-19

Center for Values in Medicine, Science and Technology Lecture Series: Big Data, AI, and Civic Virtue

About the Lecture:
We face rapidly growing arrays of serious ethical challenges with the ever more widespread employment of big data analytics and artificial intelligence. Prominent problems include algorithmic bias that can reinforce or exacerbate patterns of discrimination in the criminal justice system or the hiring and promotion practices of corporations and government agencies, the risk of the misuse of data analytics and AI for purposes of political repression and control by authoritarian regimes, and the integration of such technologies in automated weapons systems. In most of the literature on such ethical challenges, the focus is on the ethical responsibilities of individual makers and consumers of technology. This talk will suggest that a helpful complement or alternative to this individualist ethical perspective is the perspective of civic virtue. But technology making and technology deployment is usually the work of whole communities of makers and users, and the ethical impacts often affect not just the individual maker or user but the well being and well functioning of the communities within which those individuals live and work. With reference to a few specific applications of data analytics and AI, we will ask what are the impacts that are either corrosive to or promote the flourishing of relevant communities, what are the virtuous habits of action of whole communities and individuals in community that are maximally conducive to human well being, and how we engineer the relevant communities to maximize the likelihood that such virtuous habits of action will emerge and be sustained.

About the Author:
Don Howard is the former director and a Fellow of the University of Notre Dame’s Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values, where he now functions as co-director of the center’s ethics of emerging technologies focus area. He holds a permanent appointment as a Professor in the Department of Philosophy. With a first degree in physics (B.Sc., Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, 1971), Howard went on to obtain both an M.A. (1973) and a Ph.D. (1979) in philosophy from Boston University, where he specialized in philosophy of physics under the direction of Abner Shimony.

Howard has been writing and teaching about the ethics of science and technology for many years. Co-editor of the collection, The Challenge of the Social and the Pressure of Practice: Science and Values Revisited (University of Pittsburgh Press), Howard has led NSF-funded workshops on science and ethics at Notre Dame for physics REU students, is currently the lead PI on an NSF-EESE research ethics grant, and has taught courses on topics ranging from the moral choices of atomic scientists during World War II and the Cold War, to the ethics of emerging weapons technologies and robot ethics. He has also served as the Secretary of the International Society for Military Ethics. Among his current research interests are ethical and legal issues in cyberconflict and cybersecurity as well as the ethics of autonomous systems. His paper, “Virtue in Cyberconflict,” was published in 2014 in the volume, Ethics of Information Warfare (Springer), and his essay on “Civic Virtue and Cybersecurity” was published in 2017 in the volume, The Nature of Peace and the Morality of Armed Conflict (Palgrave Macmillan). His editorials on technology ethics have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, on CNN, at InsideSources, NBC Think, and in other venues.

For more information contact:
Beth Young


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