The University of Utah's Suresh Venkatasubramanian and Katie Shelef are teaching a course in "Ethics in Data Science" and they've published a comprehensive syllabus for it; it's a fantastic set of readings for anyone interested in understanding and developing ethical frameworks for computer science generally, and data science in particular. If you like this kind of thing, check out this master list of tech ethics course syllabi with more than 150 such courses! In this course, we will explore the moral, social, and ethical ramifications of the choices we make at the different stages of the data analysis pipeline, from data collection and storage to understand feedback loops in analysis. Through class discussions, case studies and exercises, students will learn the basics of ethical thinking in science, understand the history of ethical dilemmas in scientific work, and study the distinct challenges associated with ethics in modern data science.
Recently, a group of faculty and students gathered at New York University before the annual FAT* conference to discuss the promises and challenges of teaching data science ethics, and to learn from one another's experiences in the classroom. This blog post is the first of two which will summarize the discussions had at this workshop. There is general agreement that data science ethics should be taught, but less consensus about what its goals should be or how they should be pursued. Because the field is so nascent, there is substantial room for innovative thinking about what data science ethics ought to mean. In some respects, its goal may be the creation of "future citizens" of data science who are invested in the welfare of their communities and the world, and understand the social and political role of data science therein.
The New York Times has confirmed what some have long suspected: The Chinese government is using a "vast, secret system" of artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology to identify and track Uighurs--a Muslim minority, 1 million of whom are being held in detention camps in China's northwest Xinjiang province. This technology allows the government to extend its control of the Uighur population across the country. It may seem difficult to imagine a similar scenario in the U.S., but related technologies, built by Amazon, are already being used by U.S. law enforcement agencies to identify suspects in photos and video. And echoes of China's system can be heard in plans to deploy these technologies at the U.S.-Mexico border. A.I. systems also decide what information is presented to you on social media, which ads you see, and what prices you're offered for goods and services.
Tortoises typically live well past 100 and might be able to survive even longer. In 2006, a giant tortoise thought to be 255 years old died at India's Calcutta Zoo. We humans have yearned throughout history for longevity and even immortality. Science has already helped us live much longer than our ancestors did, by improving hygiene and protecting us from infectious diseases through antibiotics and vaccines. But current research into extending our lives presents an interesting twist.