The Interplay of Technology, Ethics, and Policy
Visiting Speaker
Past Talk
Rob Reich, Mehran Sahami, and Jeremy M. Weinstein
Wednesday
Dec 1, 2021
Watch video
3:15 pm
177 Huntington Ave
11th floor
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This talk will be hybrid in-person and via Zoom. Register in advance here for this meeting using your institutional email address. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Technology is often designed and deployed without critical reflection of the values that it embodies.  Value trade-offs—between security and privacy, free speech and dignity, autonomy and human agency, and different conceptions of fairness—abound in many technologies that are now achieving great scale in commonly used tech platforms.  The decisions made by the people inside the companies deploying those technologies impose their value choices upon millions of users, often with negative externalities that are now on full display.

In our new book, System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot, we provide a multidisciplinary view—the perspectives of a philosopher, a political scientist, and a computer scientist, respectively—to disentangle the systematic drivers that we believe have led to the ethical reckoning that Big Tech is now facing.  We examine the value trade-offs arising in systems for algorithmic decision-making, questions related to data gathering and privacy, the impacts of AI and automation, and the power of private platforms to control our information eco-system.  We then discuss the ways we can all play a role in helping to shape technology and the policies that govern it with an eye toward achieving better outcomes for society.  Case studies will be used to engage the audience in the conversation.

Rob Reich is a philosopher, the director of StanfordUniversity’s Center for Ethics in Society, co-director of the Centeron Philanthropy and Civil Society, and associate director of its new Institute for Human-Centered ArtificialIntelligence. He is the author of JustGiving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better.A former sixth grade teacher, he has won multiple teaching awards atStanford. He helped to create the global movement #GivingTuesday and serves as chair of its board.

Mehran Sahami was recruited to Google in its start-up days by Sergey Brin and is one of the inventors of email spam-filtering technology. With a background in machine learning and artificial intelligence, he returned to Stanford as a computer science professor in 2007 and now holds the James and Ellenor Chesebrough Professorship in Engineering. As theAssociate Chair for Education in the computer science department, he helped re design the program’s undergraduate curriculum. He is one of the instructors of Stanford’s massive introductory computer programming course taken by nearly 1,500 students per year. Mehran is also a limited partner in several VC funds and serves as an adviser to high-tech start-ups.

Jeremy M. Weinstein, a political scientist, went to Washington with President Obama in 2009. A key staffer in the White House, he foresaw how new technologies might remake the relationship between governments and citizens and launched Obama’s Open Government Partnership. When Samantha Power was appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations, she brought Jeremy to New York, first as her chief of staff and then as her deputy. He returned to Stanford in 2015 as a professor of political science, where he now leads Stanford Impact Labs, a major university initiative that partners research teams with leaders in the public, private, and social sectors to tackle important social problems. He is a prizewinning author and a decorated teacher whose expertise spans domestic politics and U.S. foreign policy.

About the speaker
About the speaker