Honoring All Expertise: Social Responsibility and Ethics in Tech
featuring Kathy Pham & Friends from the Berkman Klein Community
Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Harvard Law School
Notes from the Talk
The Ethical Tech Working Group at the Berkman Klein Center, led by BKC Fellow Kathy Pham, meets weekly to discuss the ethics of technology and to bridge the gap between industry and academia. In their recent series of lightning talks, eleven members of the group share insights into issues related to technology, ethics, and social responsibilities, highlighting the value that each of their own disciplinary trainings bring to the table.
Luke Stark begins by explaining that ethics codes, “serve functions beyond deterring behavior.” They also establish moral authorities. Regarding technological innovation, Stark asks, “how do we as a community tackle these new devices and the issues they bring, within our own shared ethos?” Salome Viljoen suggests that, contrary to popular belief, regulation does not necessarily halt innovation—it can also lead to safer innovation. Regulation may offer a more “holistic means of ‘doing’ technology.” For rapidly growing industries in the past, regulation has proven valuable. The EPA, for example, has had some success in mediating the consequences of polluting industries.
A pervading theme across the talks is the need for social and computer sciences to collaborate. Mary Gray explains that both are interested in studying social life online; they deeply need each other. Social sciences offer “great tools for exploring society and human condition,” helping researchers build theories. Computer science offers “great tools for mapping and measuring networks/nodes/edges,” allowing researchers to test theories. Ben Green likewise speaks to the disciplinary split between so-called “hard” and “soft” sciences, based on his experience as a computer science graduate student, who wanted to understand social and policy work. At first, he was discouraged from doing so. However, by reaching out across the university, he found people, like those in the ethical tech working group, who shared an interest in collaborating across perspectives.
Jenn Halen’s research is influenced by similar experiences. She argues that people who make decisions about technology, like policy makers and tech procurement officers, can decide to use technology in a way that “gets them closer to the world they want to live in.” However, they need to make these decisions within a “complex puzzle of human interactions,” and social science is a valuable tool for analyzing these interactions. An example of this research is Boaz Sender and Dean Jansen’s reflection on ethics in the open source movement. The original goal was, “to deeply empower individuals and put them in control of their computing destiny.” However, the social benefits of the movement have not been evenly distributed, and overall, corporations and their shareholders are the largest beneficiaries—not individuals. The continuing shift from personal computing to the cloud has exacerbated this inequality. Joanne Cheung wants more of this community-focused research on technology, rather than research that focuses solely on human-computer interaction. Cheung turns to Greek mythology for inspiration, suggesting that we shift from a view of ourselves as “users” to “muses.”
Several speakers also make calls for interventions within higher education. Doaa Abu-Elyounes argues that to bridge the legal, professional, and technological worlds, law school courses must be modified to include technological considerations, such as analyzing self-driving cars in a unit on transportation law. Jenny Korn recommends mandating critical race theory coursework within computer science curricula. She asks, “how might ethics related to considerations of race help us to improve society, not repeat injustices?” Korn reminds the audience that without active discussions of race and building of spaces for people of color, we reproduce whiteness in both the academy and technological industries. Like Korn, Kathy Pham wants engineers and technologists to learn humanistic and social science perspectives that will influence their decision-making processes. Pham began the working group because she wanted to think more deeply about the social responsibility of technologists. Based on her career experiences at a big tech corporation and in the federal government, she saw that decisions are often made without users in mind—this inevitably causes problems. The interdisciplinary conversations like those happening in the Ethical Tech Working Group seek to intervene in the current state of technological ethics and offer solutions derived from diverse perspectives.
Notes by Donica O'Malley
The Ethical Tech Working Group at the Berkman Klein Center will host a series of lighting talks exploring social responsibility and ethics in tech. Speakers will draw on their perspectives as computer scientists, critical race and gender scholars, designers, ethnographers, historians, lawyers, political scientists, and philosophers to share reflections on what it will take to build more publicly-accountable technologies and how to bridge diverse expertise from across industry and academia to get there. Please join us and add your voice to the discussion.
Doaa Abu-Elyounes is a second year S.J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School, where she researches the effect of artificial intelligence algorithms on the criminal justice system. Before starting her S.J.D, Doaa Completed an LL.M at Harvard Law School. Doaa is originally from Israel, where she completed an LL.B and LL.M in the University of Haifa with a special focus on law and technology. After law school, Doaa worked at the Supreme Court of Israel as a law clerk; and at the Israeli Ministry of Justice as an advisor to the Director General of the Ministry. During her time in the Berkman Center, Doaa will focus on algorithmic accountability and governance of AI in criminal justice. In particular, she will analyze the impact of risk assessment tools involving AI on the criminal justice system.
Joanne K. Cheung is an artist and designer. Her work focuses on how people, buildings, and media contribute to democratic governance. She enjoys thinking across scales and collaborating across differences.
She received her B.A. from Dartmouth College, M.F.A. from Bard College Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, and is currently pursuing her M.Arch at Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Mary L. Gray is a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research. She chairs the Microsoft Research Lab Ethics Advisory Board. Mary maintains a faculty position in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering with affiliations in Anthropology, Gender Studies and the Media School, at Indiana University. Mary’s research looks at how technology access, social conditions, and everyday uses of media transform people’s lives. Her most recent book, Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America, looked at how youth in the rural United States use media to negotiate their identities, local belonging, and connections to broader, political communities. Mary’s current project combines ethnography, interviews, and survey data with large-scale platform transaction data to understand the impact of automation on the future of work and workers’ lives. Mary’s research has been covered in the popular press, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Guardian. She served on the American Anthropological Association’s Executive Board and chaired its 113th Annual Meeting. Mary currently sits on the Executive Board of Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R). In 2017, Mary joined Stanford University’s “One-Hundred-Year Study on Artificial Intelligence” (AI100), looking at the future of AI and its policy implications.
Ben Green studies the intersections of data science with law, policy, and social science, with a focus on cities. He is a PhD Candidate in Applied Math at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Ben's research focuses on the uses of data and technology by city governments; the intersection of data, algorithms, and social justice; and the impacts of algorithms and technology on society. He is currently writing a book about the politics and sociology of smart cities. Outside of academica, Ben has extensive experience working in municipal government. He recently spent a year working for the Citywide Analytics Team in the City of Boston, where he developed analytics to improve public safety operations and civic engagement strategies for the City’s new open data program. Ben previously worked as a Fellow at the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Data Science for Social Good Summer Fellowship, and partnered with the City of Memphis, TN using machine learning to identify blighted homes. He also worked for a year at the New Haven Department of Transportation, Traffic, and Parking. Ben completed his undergraduate degree in Mathematics & Physics at Yale College. His graduate work has been funded by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and the Herbert Winokur SEAS Graduate Fellowship.
Jenn Halen is a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center. She works on research and community activities for the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative. Jenn is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of Minnesota and a former National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. Her research broadly focuses on the ways that new and emerging technologies influence, and are influenced by, politics. She will study the complex social and political implications of advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence, especially as it relates to issues of governance. She also works on issues of cyber security, human rights, and social justice. Jenn enjoys ballet, almost everything geek-related, and good vegan food. She makes excellent vegan mac and cheese, and she will probably tell you about it.
Jenny Korn is an activist of color for social justice and scholar of race, gender, and media with academic training in communication, sociology, theater, public policy, and gender studies from Princeton, Harvard, Northwestern, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She will examine identity and representation through online and in-person discourses, focusing on how popular concepts of race and gender are influenced by digital interactions, political protest, and institutional kyriarchy.
Kathy Pham is a computer scientist, cancer patient sidekick, product manager, and leader with a love for developing products, operations, hacking bureaucracy, building and and leading teams, all things data, healthcare, and weaving public service and advocacy into all aspects of life. As a 2017-2018 fellow at the Berkman Klein Center, Kathy will explore artificial intelligence, and the ethics and social impact responsibility of engineers when writing code and shipping products. Most recently, Kathy was a founding product and engineering member of the of the United States Digital Service, a tech startup in government at the White House, where she led and contributed to public services across the Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, Talent, and Precision Medicine. She sits on the advisory boards of the Anita Borg Institute local, and the “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” initiative. Previously, Kathy held a variety of roles in product, engineering, and data science at Google, IBM, and Harris Healthcare Solutions. In the non-work world, Kathy founded the Cancer Sidekick Foundation to spread Leukemia knowledge and build a cancer community, started Google's First Internal Business Intelligence Summit, founded Atlanta United For Sight, placed first at the Imagine Cup competition (basically the World Cup but for tech geeks) representing the United States with a news Sentiment Analysis engine, spoke at the White House State of STEM 2015, and invited as of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Guest at the 2015 State of the Union address. She has also been spotted at the gaming finals for the After Hours Gaming League for StarCraft II, speaking at tech conferences, and hosting food themed Formula 1 Racing hangouts. Kathy holds a Bachelors and Masters of Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, and from Supelec in Metz, France.
Luke Stark is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Dartmouth College, and studies the intersections of digital media and behavioral science. Luke’s work at the Berkman Klein Center will explore the ways in which psychological techniques are incorporated into social media platforms, mobile apps, and artificial intelligence (AI) systems — and how these behavioral technologies affect human privacy, emotional expression, and digital labor. His scholarship highlights the asymmetries of power, access and justice that are emerging as these systems are deployed in the world, and the social and political challenges that technologists, policymakers, and the wider public will face as a result. Luke holds a PhD from the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and an Honours BA and MA from the University of Toronto; he has been a Fellow of the NYU School of Law’s Information Law Institute (ILI), and an inaugural Fellow with the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Technology, Society, and Policy (CTSP). He tweets @luke_stark; learn more at https://starkcontrast.co.
Salome is a Fellow in the Privacy Initiatives Project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Salome’s professional interest is the intersection between privacy, technology and inequality. Before coming to the Berkman Center, Salome was an associate at Fenwick & West, LLP, where she worked with technology company clients on a broad variety of matters. She has a JD from Harvard Law School, an MsC from the London School of Economics, and a BA in Political Economy from Georgetown University. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and hanging out with her cat.
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