The humane future that champions of advanced technology once promised, a future of greater leisure and equality, of more enlightened minds and sentiments, of cleaner and healthier environments, has been indefinitely delayed. Will recent shifts in how we understand the ethical responsibilities of AI developers fulfill technology’s unmet promises?
The humane future that champions of advanced technology once promised—one of greater leisure and equality, more enlightened minds and sentiments, and cleaner and healthier environments—has been indefinitely delayed. Instead, a growing ‘moral debt’ has been incurred by technologists as the environmental and social costs of 19th-20th century industrialization and 21st century computerization continue to accumulate, while compensating advantages are distributed increasingly unequally. Computing technologies are used to bridge or disguise ethical gaps in our institutions, rather than to design more ethical social systems. How does AI fit into this picture? Will we allow it 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 it in ways that finally begin to pay down that debt, and fulfill technology’s unmet promise of a more humane world?
- Shannon Vallor is a philosopher and the Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and AI at the Edinburgh Futures Institute (UK). Her research explores the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on the human character and practices. In 2015, she received the World Technology Award in Ethics. In addition to many articles on the ethics of AI, she wrote Technology and the Virtues: A Philosophical Guide to a Future Worth Wanting (Oxford University Press, 2016).
- Sam Lavigne is an artist and educator whose work deals with data, surveillance, cops, natural language processing, and automation. He has exhibited at Lincoln Center, SFMOMA, Ars Electronica, The New Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum… He has taught at ITP/NYU, The New School, and the School for Poetic Computation. He is currently an Assistant Professor at UT Austin.
- Antonio Casilli is professor of sociology at Telecom Paris and researcher at the Interdisciplinary Institute of Innovation at the CNRS.