What does it mean for technology companies to “do ethics”? As more people have been tasked with “owning ethics” within tech companies, we’re beginning to find out. Recent interviews with a broad range of these ethics owners for a NSF-sponsored research collaboration suggest a set of corporate practices around ethics, corporate structures, data-driven development, and artificial intelligence is beginning to emerge.
Jake Metcalf and Emanuel Moss discuss how AI ethics figures in longstanding philosophical debates about ethics and human values, contemporary debates about “ordinary ethics,” and how the logics and structures of corporate organizations may be creating pitfalls along the way. Anticipating those pitfalls in advance will be critical to successfully implementing the comprehensive ethics programs in which so many tech companies are now investing.
Jake Metcalf is a technology ethics researcher and consultant specializing in data analytics and artificial intelligence. He’s a researcher at Data & Society on an NSF-funded multisite project, Pervasive Data Ethics for Computational Research (PERVADE), where he is studying how data ethics practices are emerging in environments that have not previously grappled with research ethics, such as industry, conference committees, and civil society organizations. He’s also exploring how design practices can successfully integrate ethical values and principles. Jake runs consulting firm Ethical Resolve, which provides clients with a range of ethics services, helping them make well-informed, consistent, actionable, and timely business decisions that reflect their values. He lives among the redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains.
Emanuel Moss is a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he studies data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence from an ethnographic perspective, focusing on the role of technologists as producers of knowledge and the ethical, economic, and cultural aspects of their work. He’s also a research analyst at Data & Society, where studies issues of fairness and accountability in machine learning, and a research assistant on the Pervasive Data Ethics for Computational Research (PERVADE) project. Emanuel holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MA from Brandeis University. Previously, he was a digital and spatial information specialist for archaeological and environmental projects in the United States and Turkey.
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