Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Notre Dame-IBM Launch Tech Ethics Lab

In the first season of The West Wing, Sam Seaborn made a poignant point that privacy and data security would be the hot button issue of the decades ahead. In this Big Data Age, huge sums of information can be captured more easily than ever. In this environment, the application of advanced technologies has become a two-edged sword. It is applied across every industry: banking, marketing, entertainment, small businesses, and government.

The 2020 US Census has a legitimate purpose. The data helps states achieve adequate representation in Congress and the appropriate level of federal funding. However, some citizens are not eager to share their personal information. We have become aware of the potential dangers of data collection. We know that data is used to sell us products that we really don't need and to slant political messages to target audiences. We have learned not to click on those Facebook surveys that collect personal information that is sold to make Facebook richer, while those surveyed receive no gain.

The ethics of advanced technologies concern everyone. However, the conversation about the reach of advanced technologies requires experts. To that end, the University of Notre Dame has launched a collaboration with IBM that will address the ethical issues surrounding the use of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum computing.

Funded by a 10-year, $20 million IBM commitment, the new Notre Dame-IBM Tech Ethics Lab will conduct research and promote models for the ethical application of technology within the tech sector, business and government.

The Tech Ethics Lab will be based at the University and will operate as a separate unit within the University’s Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC).

Mark McKenna, Professor of Law at Notre Dame and founding director of ND-TEC, said: “Rather than following the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach sometimes used in developing new technologies, we hope to provide resources that allow developers and industry to create better, more responsible technologies that positively benefit society.”

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