Critical Codes Roundtable

A Public Interest Technology event on Ethical Codes of Conduct as a mode of governance for emerging technologies.

18th November 2022, 10:50 – 15:00 (Coffee from 10:30)

High School Yards Teaching Centre

University of Edinburgh

What do Codes of Conduct actually codify? How effective are they as a tool to solve the ethical and political problems associated with emerging technologies? Who should decide what they contain?

In an age of rapid technological development, those in power often reach for codes of conduct to guide the practices of technology developers. Codes such as the IEEE’s Ethically Aligned Design, the Asilomar AI Principles or the Barcelona Declaration aim to capture moral norms in succinct, widely applicable formats. Codes of conduct, and cognate ideas such as principles, standards and guidelines are now a well established tool in the repertoire of ’emerging tech ethics’.

The presence and proliferation of these codes of conduct provide a moral compass to some practitioners. But their use often raises a range of challenges:

  • How should we address changing social values over time?
  • Whose values count when worldviews diverge?
  • What happens when a code encounters hard power?
  • How can codes be designed in anticipation of paradigm-shifting technologies?
  • Who decides what is the benchmark for “harm”?
  • How do we resolve competing claims of public benefit?

In this roundtable we’ll draw together key critiques of ethical codes of conduct with insights from Public Interest Technology (PIT), Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and Science and Technology Studies (STS). Open to students, academics and practitioners alike, we will go beyond the often simplistic, bullet-pointed manifestos, which lack public input, to consider whether it is possible to reframe ethical standards as an ongoing democratic activity, ensuring wider ethical debate on how technology shapes modern culture and is in turn shaped by it. The content of our discussions will be synthesised and fed-forwards into an initiative on Codes of Conduct by the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN).

Speakers

We will have discussion and short talks from five international speakers:

  • Nina Maria Frahm, postdoctoral researcher at the School of Communication and Culture, Department of Digital Design and Information Studies, Aarhus University. Nina critically analyses attempts of transnational policies to align innovation and society, and has consulted on this topic for the OECD.
  • Luke Stark, assistant professor at Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. An expert on the historical, social, and ethical impacts of computing and artificial intelligence technologies, particularly those mediating social and emotional expression.
  • Emma Frow, Associate Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS) and the School of Biological & Health Systems Engineering (SBHSE), Arizona State University. Emma is an international expert on the governance of emerging technologies, particularly the development of standards.
  • Shannon Vallor, Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence at the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) at the University of Edinburgh, and Director of the Centre for Technomoral Futures. Shannon is leading development of ‘Principles for Data Ethics’ at the University of Edinburgh. 
  • Filippo Cuttica, independent practitioner in responsible innovation and speculative design, previously UX Principal for Ethical Experiences at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Head of Service Design at the UK Health Security Agency.

 

Collaborators

Robert Smith

Robert Smith

University of Edinburgh

Filippo Cuttica

Filippo Cuttica

Independent Consultant

Matjaz Vidmar

Matjaz Vidmar

University of Edinburgh

Sophie Stone

Sophie Stone

University of Edinburgh