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Ethics of Emerging Technologies [Ethics]

Artificial intelligence, blockchain, self-driving cars, autonomous weapons, and other emerging technologies offer incredible potential for solving problems and making our lives better. Their many promises include accelerating scientific discovery, curing diseases, improving efficiency, and widening access to opportunities. But these technologies also raise numerous questions about the values they promote and the risks they impose. Emerging technologies can threaten human safety, destroy the environment, and create or reinforce patterns of discrimination. They can upend cherished traditions and ways of living and empower some people and belief systems over others.

What are the potential benefits and costs of different innovations and applications?

How should value trade-offs be resolved and how should opportunities and impacts be fairly distributed?

And who should decide and enforce the answers to these questions?

This course will acquaint students with several forms of emerging technology and the ethical debates that surround them. These debates include concerns about (e.g.) privacy, safety, fairness, explainability, wellbeing, sustainability, democracy—and disagreements about how these values should be defined, weighed, and applied. Students will leave the course equipped to defend convincing positions on these questions. And they will leave with general tools of philosophical reasoning that can be applied to ethical questions in other domains.


Dr. Theodore Lechterman is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at IE University, having recently joined IE from the Institute for Ethics in AI at the University of Oxford. Lechterman’s research addresses questions in applied ethics through the lens of political philosophy. Recent topics of publication include the concept of accountability in AI ethics and the ethics of combatting disinformation with AI. Current projects include the ethics of self-regulation of weaponizable technology and the ethics of democracy-enhancing robots. Lechterman is one of the organizers of the AAAI/ACM Conference on AI, Ethics, and Society, the world’s premier interdisciplinary research conference on AI ethics. His first book, The Tyranny of Generosity: Why Philanthropy Corrupts Our Politics and How We Can Fix It, was published in 2021 by Oxford University Press. Lechterman frequently contributes to public debates and advises organizational leaders on frontier ethical challenges in business, governance, and technology. He holds degrees from Harvard and Princeton and completed postdoctoral fellowships at Stanford, Goethe University, and the Hertie School.

theodore Lechterman

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