Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Save the Date: Workshop on Ethical Guidance for Research and Application of Pervasive and Autonomous Information Technology, March 3-4, 2010

Announcing a 2-day workshop on “Ethical Guidance for Research and Application of Pervasive and Autonomous Information Technology (PAIT)” March 3-4, 2010. The workshop will be a culminating event of a year-long process of planning, case development and analysis, and networking among information technology engineers and researchers, ethicists, and other interested persons. The workshop is funded by the National Science Foundation (grant number SES-0848097) and sponsored by Indiana University’s Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions and the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.

Confirmed speakers include Helen Nissenbaum, Associate Professor in the Department of Culture and Communication and Senior Fellow of the Information Law Institute, New York University; and Fred H. Cate, Distinguished Professor and C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law, IU School of Law, and Director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, Indiana University Bloomington.

Technologies are being developed today using very small, relatively inexpensive, wireless-enabled computers and autonomous robots that will most likely result in the near-omnipresence of information gathering and processing devices embedded in clothing, appliances, carpets, food packaging, doors and windows, paperback books, and other everyday items to gather data about when and how (and possibly by whom) an item is used. The data can be analyzed, stored, and shared via the Internet. Some of these pervasive technologies will also be autonomous, making decisions on their own about what data to gather and share, which actions to take (sound an alarm, lock a door), and the like.

The potential benefits of pervasive and autonomous information technology (PAIT) are many and varied, sometimes obvious, sometimes obscure – as are the ethical implications of their development and deployment. The history of information technology suggests that long-standing issues including usability, privacy, and security, among others, as well as relatively new phenomena such as ethically blind autonomous systems, are best addressed early enough to become part of the culture of researchers and engineers responsible for identifying needs and designing solutions.

This project will create a firm ethical foundation for this nascent field by convening an international meeting of experts in PAIT, ethicists well versed in practical ethics, and other stakeholders. The meeting will feature discussions of previously-prepared case studies describing actual and anticipated uses of PAIT, invited presentations on key issues, working groups to identify and categorize ethical concerns, and other activities aimed at community-building and formulating ethical guidance to help researchers and designers of such systems recognize and address ethical issues at every stage, from design to deployment to obsolescence. The participants will form the core of a new interdisciplinary subfield of value-centered PAIT which will develop guidelines and conceptual tools to support communication and collaboration among and between researchers, engineers, and ethicists.

The Planning Committee (see http://poynter.indiana.edu/pait) is actively seeking experts interested in joining one or more informal working groups to help prepare for the workshop; if you are interested in being involved, please get in touch with the project director (see contact information below).

The PAIT workshop will precede the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, which will begin on Thursday, March 4, 2010 at the historical Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Registration will be required for attendance at the PAIT workshop, but there will be no registration fee. PAIT participants are also encouraged to register to attend and participate in the Association’s annual meeting (see http://www.indiana.edu/~appe/).

For more information:
Kenneth D. Pimple, Ph.D., PAIT Project Director
Poynter Center, Indiana University
Bloomington IN 47405-3602
FAX 812-855-3315

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