STS Helsinki seminar 25.5.: David Moats

For our seminar in May, STS Helsinki will host David Moats. Welcome to the talk, which will be held at Unioninkatu 35, room 113, at 13:15–14:45!

The ‘Problem’ with Definitions of Fairness: A Reflection on Interdisciplinarity in AI Ethics

It is increasingly understood that attempts to make artificial intelligence (AI) or autonomous systems ‘fair’, ‘accountable’ or ‘transparent’ will require collaboration between different disciplines. Yet it has frequently been noted that these key terms, like ‘fairness’ or ‘bias’ or ‘discrimination’ have different uses for different communities in the emerging field of AI Ethics. While some scholars might see these divergent uses of words as an obstacle to more fruitful inter- or trans-disciplinary work, in this paper I argue, that these competing uses of terms may be an opportunity, in fact a precondition for the development of interdisciplinary projects. Drawing on experiences of working in an interdisciplinary team on a project attempting to map the field of AI Ethics with quantitative and qualitative tools, I recount several moments of disciplinary tension which, I argue, reconfigured the ‘problem’ of the project in productive ways. These moments only arose through unexpected juxtapositions of terms, methods or ways of knowing the world. Following this insight, we propose an experimental intervention: a workshop exercise intended to provoke such moments of disjuncture in interdisciplinary groups, using a novel visualization of AI Ethics literature.

David Moats is Research Fellow in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki. His research is mainly about digitization and the role of machine learning and artificial intelligence in transforming various industries including media, healthcare, politics and academia. He is also interested in the methodological implications of these new sources of digital data and techniques like data visualizations for the socialsciences and interdisciplinary collaborations. A book he co-edited with Steve Woolgar, Else Vogel and CF Helgesson, called The Imposter as Social Theory, was published by Bristol University Press in 2021.