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The Ethics of Algorithmic Outsourcing: An Analysis

October 26, 2016 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Location: CA110 (SAC Room), Cairnes Building, NUI Galway Galway Ireland

Speaker(s): Dr John Danaher

Affiliation: Law

Organised by: Whitaker Institute

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Personal AI assistants are now nearly ubiquitous. Every leading smartphone operating system comes with a personal AI assistant that promises to help you with basic cognitive tasks: searching, planning, messaging, scheduling, and so on. Usage of such devices is effectively a form of algorithmic outsourcing: getting a smart machine learning algorithm to perform a cognitive task on your behalf. Many have expressed concerns about this algorithmic outsourcing. They claim that it is dehumanising (Dreyfus and Kelly 2011; Frischmann 2013), leads to cognitive degeneration (Carr 2014); robs us of our freedom and autonomy (Krakauer 2016; Crawford 2015); and degrades important interpersonal virtues (Selinger, various). In this presentation I will assess the ethics of personal algorithmic outsourcing. I will argue that the ethics of such outsourcing is complex. There are no quick fixes or knockdown objections to the practice, but there are some legitimate concerns. By carefully analysing and evaluating the objections that have been lodged to date, we can begin to articulate an ethics of outsourcing that navigates those concerns. In the process, we can locate some paradoxes in our thinking about outsourcing and technological dependence, and we can think more clearly about what it means to live a good life in the age of smart machines.



This seminar is one of a series of seminars in the Whitaker Ideas Forum seminar series.  Dr Danaher will be representing the Technology & Governance Research Cluster.