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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Ethics and Artificial Intelligence

In 2017, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics was selected to join the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, a consortium of major companies and nonprofits devoted to formulating best practices for the use of AI. Our work on AI brings together many of our program areas, from Technology Ethics to Character Education, from Bioethics to Internet, Government, and Business Ethics. We are exploring how AI affects criminal sentencing, “smart cities,” driverless cars, and online rumors. At one of our events on the ethical challenges of AI, SCU Business Professor Sanjiv Das commented:

Sanjiv Das

“In machine learning, there are three major problems with bias. First, you are what you eat. If you use police data that already contains extensive bias in the policing and you train a machine on that, obviously the machine learns the bias. Second, these decisions generate more data that is biased, making bias self-perpetuating. Third, because the machine is learning as it analyzes more and more data, it can go off and do something the creator can’t explain and would never have considered. Consider an example of a policymaker giving a lot of global data to the machine and asking it to figure out how to eradicate poverty. The machine comes back and says, ‘Just kill all the poor people,’ which is clearly a solution to the problem, but so utterly unacceptable that a human would never anticipate it from an algorithm.”

Sanjiv Das, William and Janice Terry Professor of Finance, SCU


Center Programs on the Ethical Impact of AI and Other Technologies

Speeches and Presentations

Minimizing AI Risks
Wendell Wallach, Scholar at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics

Informed Consent and Ownership of Human Biological Materials
Radhika Rao, Professor, UC Hastings College of the Law

Habeas Data: Privacy vs. the Rise of Surveillance Tech
Cyrus Farvivar, Senior Business Editor, ArsTechnica

Artificial Intelligence: Ethical Challenges and a Fast- Approaching Future
Panel of SCU experts

Online Rumors, Conspiracy Theories, and Disinformation: Informatics and Civil Discourse
Kate Starbird, Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, University of Washington

The Trust Project: Using Technology to Restore Faith in News
Panel, The Tech Museum of Innovation, San Jose

Content Moderation and Removal at Scale Conference

Student Programs

Other Activities