Session:Mathematicians acting amorally - how they harm society

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Description Mathematicians work at the heart of most emerging technologies. Their work is re-shaping the world, and yet they have little knowledge, appreciation or training in ethical awareness. I am working to change this, and bring about a serious discussion in the mathematical community about the social impact mathematicians can have.

My name is Maurice Chiodo, and I am a postdoctoral researcher in mathematics at the University of Cambridge. You can contact me at: mcc56 AT cam DOT ac DOT uk , or on twitter: @mauricechiodo

Type Talk
Kids session No
Keyword(s) social
Tags Ethics in Mathematics
Person organizing
Language en - English
en - English
Other sessions...


Starts at 2017/12/28 21:00
Ends at 2017/12/28 22:00
Duration 60 minutes
Location Room:CCL Hall 3

Mathematics is a powerful tool; perhaps one of the most powerful tools we have in modern society. So many parts of our lives are run by mathematical processes. Thus, collectively, mathematicians have unexpectedly found themselves in a position of power. But with great power comes great responsibility. Yet no university mathematics degree teaches mathematicians anything about social responsibility or ethical behaviour. Oblivious to the consequences of their actions, mathematicians are now twisting and distorting the core processes in society. From the way we find information (search engines), to the way we purchase goods (online retailers), to the way we are judged in a courtroom (prison sentencing algorithms), to the way we decide who to vote for (targeted electoral advertising), to the way we find romantic partners (hookup apps). Mathematicians are controlling the way we live. For the past two years I have been running a seminar series at the University of Cambridge (UK), specifically for mathematicians, with the aim of teaching them some ethical awareness. In the process, I have learned a lot about how totally oblivious they are to the impact of their work. Being a mathematician myself I can understand how they formed this perspective, yet it is still quite unnerving to witness. In this talk I will share some of my experiences, and explain why I think that this community needs to be made aware of their potential to cause harm.