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Ethics, Agency, and Automated Decision Systems

November 21, 2019 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Ethics, Agency, and Automated Decision Systems
A Brown Bag with Alan Rubel, JD, PhD, 
Associate Professor, Information School; Director, Center for Law, Society & Justice

Algorithmic systems and predictive analytics play an increasingly important role in various aspects of modern life. Scholarship on the moral ramifications of such systems is in its early stages, and much of it focuses on bias and harm. This project argues that in understanding the moral salience of algorithmic systems it is essential to understand the relation between algorithms, autonomy, and agency. We draw on several recent cases (including criminal sentencing and K-12 teacher evaluation) to outline several key ways in which issues of agency, autonomy, and respect for persons can conflict with algorithmic decision-making. Three of these involve failures to treat individual agents with the respect they deserve. The fourth involves distancing oneself from a morally suspect action by attributing one’s decision to take that action to an algorithm, thereby laundering one’s agency.

Work presented is part of a collaborative project with Adam Pham (PhD student in Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Clinton Castro (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Florida International University).

Reading related to this topic:

Agency Laundering and Information Technologies (Rubel Castro Pham)

Further reading:

Fairness in Machine Learning Lessons from Political Philosophy (Binns)

‘Hypernudge’ Big Data as a Mode of Regulation by Design (Yeung)


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Rubel Brown Bag Poster


November 21, 2019
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
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