5 episodes

Produced by the Notre Dame-IBM Tech Ethics Lab, Tech on Earth brings a practical lens to technology ethics around the world.

Tech on Earth Notre Dame-IBM Tech Ethics Lab

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Produced by the Notre Dame-IBM Tech Ethics Lab, Tech on Earth brings a practical lens to technology ethics around the world.

    Virtue Ethics and Technomoral Futures

    Virtue Ethics and Technomoral Futures

    Host Elizabeth Renieris is joined by Dr. Shannon Vallor, the Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh's Edinburgh Futures Institute, where she directs the Centre for Technomoral Futures. She is also a professor in philosophy, and her research explores the philosophy and ethics of emerging science and technologies.

    Shannon is particularly well known for her work in virtue ethics. In explaining its focus on “the way in which our actions and our habits shape our moral character,” she noted that the principles of virtue ethics resonate across a number of cultures and why the tradition’s emphasis on our daily practices interested her as a way to think about technology.

    In addition, Shannon described her use of the term “technomoral” as a way to emphasize, counter to the thesis of technological neutrality, that technology cannot in fact be separated from our values, and vice versa. Elizabeth asked her about the idea of moral debt, as well, specifically as it relates to AI. Shannon discussed how paying attention to ethics at the design stage is one important strategy for limiting this debt but that appropriate regulation, corporate responsibility in deployment, and systems that study how technologies are actually working out in the world are equally critical.

    More About Our Guest

    A member of the faculty at the University of Edinburgh since 2020, Dr. Shannon Vallor was previously Regis and Dianne McKenna Professor of Philosophy at Santa Clara University. She studies how human character is being transformed by rapid advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, new social media, surveillance, and biomedical technologies.

    Shannon is the author of the book Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting and the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Technology, both published by Oxford University Press. Currently the chair of the Scottish government’s Data Delivery Group, she was the winner of the 2015 World Technology Award in Ethics from the World Technology Network.

    Links
    Shannon’s Book Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth WantingCentre for Technomoral FuturesEpisode Transcript

    • 30 min
    Islam and Postmodern Technology

    Islam and Postmodern Technology

    Host Elizabeth Renieris is joined by Dr. Amana Raquib, an assistant professor of social sciences and liberal arts at the Institute of Business Administration Karachi in Karachi, Pakistan. Amana’s research interests are in religion, philosophy, and ethics, and her publications include the book Islamic Ethics of Technology: An Objectives’ (Maqāṣid) Approach.

    Amana explained how the Maqāṣid is a paradigm consisting of several fundamental objectives that early Muslim theologians derived from the Islamic Scriptures, and that from an Islamic perspective, whatever human beings do or don’t do—with respect to technology or anything else—should honor these principles to secure the well-being of all humankind. She contrasted this against what she calls our era of postmodern technology, where innovation and new technologies are often pursued for their own sake, without being guided by any moral tradition.

    Amana and Elizabeth also discussed how a goal like efficiency, which is so prominent in the tech space, is viewed in light of the Maqāṣid as well as the relationship between the individual and the collective good in Islam and how we can move away from the notion of new tech as both the means and end of technological advancement.

    More About Our Guest

    Dr. Amana Raquib, who holds a Ph.D. in religion, philosophy, and ethics from the University of Queensland, has been a faculty member at the Institute of Business Administration Karachi since 2015. Among other courses, she teaches “Are We Becoming Post-Human: Technology, Society, Ethics.”

    She recently delivered two talks at the International Conference on Islamic Ethics and AI, including “Developing Human Beneficial AI Using Guidance from Islamic Maqasid.” In 2020, her project “Culturally Informed Pro-Social AI Regulation and Persuasion Framework” received a grant under the Facebook Research Ethics in AI Research Initiative for the Asia Pacific.

    Links
    Amana’s Book: Islamic Ethics of Technology: An Objectives’ (Maqāṣid) ApproachEpisode Transcript

    • 27 min
    A RenAIssance: The Rome Call for AI Ethics

    A RenAIssance: The Rome Call for AI Ethics

    Host Elizabeth Renieris is joined by Father Paolo Benanti, Extraordinary Professor of Moral Theology, Bioethics, Neuroethics, and Ethics of Technologies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. A Franciscan of the Third Order Regular, Fr. Benanti is also a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV), through which he is involved with what is known as the Rome Call for AI Ethics.

    The PAV is the sponsor of the Rome Call for AI Ethics, signed in Rome on February 28, 2020, by the PAV, IBM, Microsoft, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Italian government’s Ministry of Innovation. The Rome Call seeks to advance a human-centered approach to AI by mobilizing actors from all parts of society—public and private, profit and nonprofit, and a wide range of cultural and religious traditions.

    Here, Fr. Benanti talked about the Rome Call’s efforts to champion a “RenAIssance” in AI, such that concern for the human being is paramount in the design, development, and deployment of artificial intelligence systems, and the document’s promotion of what he and others (including Pope Francis) have termed “algorethics.”

    Elizabeth also asked Fr. Benanti about what he’s previously described in his work as the “techno-human condition” and its relationship to tech ethics, prompting him to tell a memorable story about, of all things, an elephant.

    More About Our Guest

    Fr. Benanti started his academic career in mechanical engineering before entering the Franciscan order and pursuing theology and philosophy. He holds a doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and won the university’s Vedovato Award for his dissertation “The Cyborg: Corpo e corporeità nell’epoca del postumano.”

    His research focuses on the management of innovation, particularly as it relates to the internet and the impact of the Digital Age, biotechnologies for human improvement and biosecurity, and neuroscience and neurotechnology. Among his many publications is the ebook Homo Faber: The Techno-Human Condition (EDB 2018).

    Links
    Rome Call for AI EthicsFr. Benanti’s Book Homo Faber: The Techno-Human ConditionEpisode Transcript

    • 26 min
    A Buddhist Lens on Tech Ethics

    A Buddhist Lens on Tech Ethics

    Host Elizabeth Renieris is joined by the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi, founding president and CEO of The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The center is a collaborative and nonpartisan think tank focusing on the development of interdisciplinary research and programs in a variety of fields, from science and technology to education and international relations.

    A Buddhist monk, Venerable Tenzin gave us a primer on Buddhist ethics generally and what they mean in the context of technology specifically. This included a discussion of our increasingly virtual lives during COVID as well as a principle he calls “ethics by design.” He and Elizabeth also talked about how he would apply Buddhist ethical framing to case studies involving technology in the automotive, healthcare, and defense industries.

    More About Our Guest

    Venerable Tenzin entered a Buddhist monastery at the age of 10, studying traditional Indo-Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism. He was ordained by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, who is his spiritual mentor.

    In addition to his current role leading The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values, Venerable Tenzin has served as director of the ethics initiative at the MIT Media Lab and as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He is also the founding director and president of the Prajnopaya Institute and Foundation, a worldwide humanitarian organization that provides care for all regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender by developing innovative health, education, and social welfare programs.

    Venerable Tenzin is a graduate of Harvard University, which in 2013 recognized him with a Distinguished Alumni Award for his visionary contributions to humanity.

    Links
    The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative ValuesEpisode Transcript

    • 24 min
    Welcome to Tech on Earth

    Welcome to Tech on Earth

    *Note: This description is also a transcript of the trailer.

    Hosted by Elizabeth Renieris, founding director of the Notre Dame-IBM Technology Ethics Lab, Tech on Earth is a podcast aimed at bringing a practical lens to tech ethics around the world.

    When things abruptly shut down in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology kept us connected. But as everything from work, school, and time with friends and family moved online for many of us, technology’s promises and pitfalls also grew more apparent. Challenges around technologies deployed as part of the international public health response also highlighted the need for cross-border cooperation and collaboration, as well as differing cultural attitudes towards their use. 

    At the same time, governments and NGOs continue to advocate for standards and guidelines for the ethical development and use of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, which have historically been driven by U.S. and Western European interests. As companies and other organizations seek to embrace and reflect more diverse and inclusive viewpoints, we’ll seek to provide insights on tech ethics from around the globe. 
    We’ll aim to understand how “tech ethics” are actually understood and interpreted in different parts of the world, gather lessons from various religious and secular traditions, and examine how cultural norms and attitudes shape, support, or impede the realization of ethical principles in practice. Our hope is to find some common ground across divergent perspectives on the ethics that should govern the design and use of cross-border technologies now and in the future.

    Join us as we bring technology ethics down to earth. Tech on Earth is available wherever you get your podcasts and at techethicslab.nd.edu.

    • 1 min

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