Our Work

What We Focus On

This year, the Notre Dame-IBM Technology Ethics Lab will focus on six core themes related to applied technology ethics. For each theme, we’ve included a sampling of the kinds of topics and questions that may be relevant. We interpret these themes broadly to cover a wide range of ethical questions and challenges.

The Ethics of Scale

  • What are the ethical limits of networked technologies? 
  • When is a technology or platform “too big to fail” or just too big?
  • How can we mitigate risks and harms at scale?
  • How can investors and other stakeholders incentivize scaling responsibly? 

The Ethics of Automation 

  • Is automation compatible with autonomy? 
  • What should be the role of algorithms and automated decision-making? 
  • Do we need a right to the freedom of thought?
  • How does automation impact the future of work & labor?
  • What are the risks of “smart” devices and computational processes?  

The Ethics of Persuasion

  • When is it OK to persuade?
  • When does persuasion become manipulation?
  • When are profiling and personalization acceptable?
  • Do we need a right to freedom from manipulation?
  • How can we design ethical frameworks for neurotechnologies? 

The Ethics of Prediction

  • What are the ethical limits of prediction?
  • How do we design ethical frameworks for the use of predictive technologies?
  • How do we preserve freedom and autonomy in the face of prediction? 
  • How do we prevent the disparate application of predictive technologies and prediction tools?

The Ethics of Identification

  • What are the ethics of digital identity schemes?
  • Do we need a right to remain anonymous? 
  • What are the ethics of reputational and scoring systems?
  • When does personalization and profiling become discrimination or harassment? 

The Ethics of Adoption

  • What are the ethics of technology adoption?
  • How do we design ethical frameworks for public procurement? 
  • What are ethical ways of driving adoption?

Who We Support

Technology ethics can be championed by a wide array of individual and organizational stakeholders across sectors and industries, the Lab aims to support three primary audiences:

  1. Companies, organizations, and entities in any industry or sector who design, develop, deploy, and use artificial intelligence applications and other new and advanced technologies.
  2. Law and policymakers who design, develop, and deploy legal and regulatory frameworks and policies to govern the use of new and advanced technologies and the entities responsible for them.
  3. Academics and researchers who are advancing theoretical foundations and frameworks upon which practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders can build in designing, developing, and deploying new and advanced technologies and the rules to govern them. The Lab can also help to promote interdisciplinarity, translate academic research into practice, identify any gaps in such research needed to solve real-world challenges, and provide meaningful tools to support their work.

We also seek to support:

  1. Students and future leaders who will eventually shape the design, development, and deployment of new and advanced technologies, as well as the law and policy frameworks to govern them. 
  2. Civil society actors and organizations who seek to hold technologists, companies, policymakers, and others accountable for adhering to their own theoretical and practical frameworks and policies for technology ethics.
  3. Shareholders, venture capital, and other investors who can incentivize or disincentivize the ethical design, development, and deployment of new and advanced technologies, including the use cases and commercial models underpinning them.

Funding

The Technology Ethics Lab is funded by a 10-year, $20 million IBM commitment.