Moshe Vardi | How to be an ethical computer scientist

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Our weekly SRI Seminar Series welcomes Moshe Vardi, the Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor of Computational Engineering at Rice University, where he leads the Technology, Culture, and Society Initiative. Vardi’s interests focus on applications of logic to computer science, including database and finite model theory, knowledge in multi-agent systems, computer-aided verification and reasoning, and teaching logic across the curriculum. Vardi has authored or co-authored over 600 technical papers, as well as the books Reasoning About Knowledge (2003) and Finite Model Theory and Its Applications (2007). He is a senior editor of Communications of the ACM, after serving as its editor-in-chief for a decade.

In this talk, Vardi will discuss what considerations and principles computer scientists can use to develop an ethical framework for their practices.

Talk title:
“How to be an ethical computer scientist”

Abstract:
Many of us got involved in computing because programming was fun. The advantages of computing seemed intuitive to us. We truly believed that computing yields tremendous societal benefits; for example, the life-saving potential of driverless cars is enormous! Recently, however, computer scientists realized that computing is not a game—it is real—and it brings with it not only societal benefits, but also significant societal costs, such as labor polarization, disinformation, and smartphone addiction. A common reaction to this crisis is to label it as an “ethics crisis.” But corporations are driven by profits, not ethics, and machines are just machines. Only people can be expected to act ethically. In this talk, I will discuss how computer scientists should behave ethically.

About Moshe Vardi
Moshe Y. Vardi is the Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor of Computational Engineering at Rice University, where he currently leads the Technology, Culture, and Society Initiative. Vardi chaired the Department of Computer Science at Rice University from 1994 until 2002, and led the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology from 2001 to 2019. Prior to joining Rice in 1993, Vardi was at the IBM Almaden Research Center, where he managed the Mathematics and Related Computer Science Department. His research interests include database systems, computational-complexity theory, multi-agent systems, and design specification and verification. Vardi is the author and co-author of over 700 articles, as well as two books, Reasoning About Knowledge and Finite Model Theory and its Applications, and the editor of several collections. He is the recipient of numerous scientific awards, is a fellow of many societies, and a member of several honorary academies. He holds eight honorary doctorates. He is a senior editor of Communications of the ACM, the premier publication in computing, focusing on societal impact of information technology.

About the SRI Seminar Series
The SRI Seminar Series brings together the Schwartz Reisman community and beyond for a robust exchange of ideas that advance scholarship at the intersection of technology and society. Seminars are led by a leading or emerging scholar and feature extensive discussion.

Each week, a featured speaker will present for 45 minutes, followed by an open discussion. Registered attendees will be emailed a Zoom link before the event begins. The event will be recorded and posted online.

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