Tuesday, February 18, 2020
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Dabney Hall 110 (Treasure Room)

Humanities Talk

Procedure and Substance in the Ethics of Technology
Theodore (Ted) Lechterman, Visiting Researcher, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin,

Abstract: What social processes can be permissibly outsourced to artificial intelligence or blockchain technology? Under what conditions are platform monopolies objectionable? Who is entitled to a say in the design of the powerful algorithms that govern commercial transactions or the public exchange of ideas? These questions share two things in common. Each raises concerns about power, authority, and due process—concerns that philosophers call "procedural values." Questions like these are also almost impossible to answer by consulting the burgeoning philosophical literature on the ethics of technology. Philosophers working in this area have done much to advance our understanding of the demands that substantive values like privacy, security, and fairness make on the design of databases, networked communication, and autonomous systems. But it is one thing to assess the substantive qualities of technological products, and another thing to assess how control over design, development, and use is distributed and exercised. This talk aims to (1) show why a deeper appreciation of procedural values is essential for addressing a range of increasingly urgent questions, (2) offer some hypotheses about how procedural values apply to certain digital domains, and (3) illustrate how the distinction between procedure and substance can help address controversies in other areas of applied ethics.

For more information, please contact Fran Tise by phone at 626-395-3609 or by email at ftise@hss.caltech.edu.