Technology’s Unpaid Debt: AI and the Promise of a More Humane Future
The humane future that champions of advanced technology once promised–a future with greater leisure and equality, more enlightened minds and sentiments, and cleaner and healthier environments–has been indefinitely delayed in its arrival. Instead, a growing ‘moral debt’ has been incurred by technologists as the environmental and social costs of 19th-20th c. industrialization and 21st c. computerization continue to accumulate, while compensating advantages are distributed increasingly unequally. In this talk I will ask how AI fits into this picture: will we allow AI to add to that increasingly unsustainable debt? Or might recent shifts in how we understand the ethical responsibilities of AI developers allow us to use AI and other emerging technologies in ways that finally begin to pay down that moral debt, and fulfill technology’s unmet promise of a more humane world?
Shannon Vallor’s research addresses the ethical implications of emerging science and technology, especially AI, robotics and new media, for human character and institutions. She received the 2015 World Technology Award in Ethics from the World Technology Network. She has served as President of the Society for Philosophy and Technology, and as a Co-Director of the nonprofit Foundation for Responsible Robotics. In addition to her many articles and published educational modules on the ethics of data, robotics, and artificial intelligence, she is the author of the book Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting (Oxford University Press, 2016) and the forthcoming Lessons from the AI Mirror: Rebuilding Our Humanity in an Age of Machine Thinking.
In ancient Greece, the basanos or touchstone had multiple meanings: a literal stone that tests the authenticity of gold by revealing its characteristic mark upon striking it, or metaphorically, a moral test of the authenticity of a life or a ruler. It also referred to a method of extracting truthful testimony by means of torture; specifically, of non-Greek slaves. The basanos thus embodies the interweaving of truth-telling with virtue, violence, and power in Western moral, political, and technical thought. In this talk I explore how contemporary uses of AI and data science have retraced and reconstituted the basanos in myriad ways, while also revealing a critical opportunity for the invention of new, more just and sustainable means of truth-telling.
Shannon Vallor is the Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence at the Edinburgh Futures Institute at the University of Edinburgh, where she is also appointed to the Department of Philosophy. In addition to her many articles and published educational modules on the ethics of data, robotics, and artificial intelligence, she is the author of the book Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting (Oxford University Press, 2016) and the forthcoming Lessons from the AI Mirror: Rebuilding Our Humanity in an Age of Machine Thinking.
Organisation: Dominic Martin (Professeur en éthique à l’École des Sciences de la Gestion de l’UQÀM)