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Distinguished Lecture Series

Ethics Washing in AI


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Friday, March 05, 2021, 10:00am - 11:00am


Speaker: Dr. Moshe Vardi, Rice University


Moshe Vardi is a Professor of Computer Science at Rice University and directs the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology. He also holds the titles of University Professor, the Karen Ostrum George Professor in Computational Engineering and Distinguished Service Professor. Dr Vardi received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1981. His interests focus on applications of logic to computer science. He is an expert in model checking, constraint satisfaction and database theory. Vardi is the recipient of multiple awards, including 3 IBM Outstanding Innovation Awards, co-winner of the 2000 Gödel Prize, co-winner of the 2005 ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award, co-winner of the LICS 2006 Test-of-Time Award, the 2008 and 2017 ACM Presidential Award, the 2008 Blaise Pascal Medal in computational science by the European Academy of Sciences, and others. He holds honorary doctorates from 8 universities. He is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow of ACM, AAAS and AAAI, a member of the US National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, the European Academy of Sciences, and the Academia Europaea. Prof. Vardi is the president of the International Federation of Computational Logicians. He is Senior Editor of Communications of the ACM, after serving as its Editor-in-Chief for a decade.

Location : Via Webex

Event Type: Distinguished Lecture Series

Abstract: Over the past decade Artificial Intelligence, in general, and Machine Learning, in particular, have made impressive advancements, in image recognition, game playing, natural-language understanding and more. But there were also several instances where we saw the harm that these technologies can cause when they are deployed too hastily. A Tesla crashed on Autopilot, killing the driver; a self-driving Uber crashed, killing a pedestrian; and commercial face-recognition systems performed terribly in audits on dark-skinned people. In response to that, there has been much recent talk of AI ethics. Many organizations produced AI-ethics guidelines and companies publicize their newly established responsible-AI teams. But talk is cheap. “Ethics washing” — also called “ethics theater” — is the practice of fabricating or exaggerating a company’s interest in equitable AI systems that work for everyone. An example is when a company promotes “AI for good” initiatives with one hand, while selling surveillance tech to governments and corporate customers with the other. I will argue that the ethical lens is too narrow. The real issue is how to deal with technology’s impact on society. Technology is driving the future, but who is doing the steering?

Contact  Host: Dr. Kostas Bekris

You can join via Webex:


Meeting number (access code): 120 370 5017

Meeting password: 1234