Presidential Lecture Series

Technology and the Human Future Series


In 2017, an opinion piece in听The New York Times, 鈥The Ivory Tower Can鈥檛 Keep Ignoring Tech,鈥澨齝alled out universities for leaving the work of researching and regulating technology to the media and lobbyists. Cathy O鈥橬eil, public intellectual and author of听Weapons of Math Destruction, there exhorted:听鈥We need academia to step up to fill in the gaps in our collective understanding about the new role of technology in shaping our lives. We need robust research on hiring algorithms that seem to filter out people with mental health disorders, sentencing algorithms that听fail twice as often for听black defendants as for white defendants, statistically flawed听public teacher assessments or oppressive scheduling algorithms. And听we need research to ensure that the same mistakes aren鈥檛 made again and again. It鈥檚 absolutely within the abilities of academic research to study such examples and to push against the most obvious statistical, ethical or constitutional failures and dedicate serious intellectual energy to finding solutions.鈥 听

In fact, academics and scholars听have been interested from the outset听in the imbricated issues brought to the fore by accelerated technological development. Not only do all major universities today offer courses centering upon technology and ethics, but scholars and researchers have taken an active role in articulating, validating and communicating the ethical frameworks and policy recommendations proposed to guide technologists and lawmakers.听 Indeed, universities may be the ideal locus for reflection upon how to achieve meaningful balance between technological innovation and regulation of the forces it inevitably releases.听

Technology will play an unarguably immense role in our human future and has equal power to destroy or redeem us.听听Marc Dugain and Christophe Labb茅, authors of听L鈥橦omme nu: la dictature invisible du num茅rique,听write at the outset of their book: 鈥滐豢The collection and analysis of data of all kinds will determine the century that is before us. Never in the history of mankind have we had access to such voluminous production of information.鈥 They warn from the outset, paraphrased in English here, that the technological revolution will gradually and inexorably direct our lives toward a state of passivity, of voluntary service to forces larger than ourselves, the result of which will be the full loss of private life and an irreversible renunciation of our liberty.听听French deputy and mathematician C茅dric Villani takes another tack, insisting on yoking the power of technology to the protection of human beings and our planet.听听The monumental impact of technology will remain an illusion, as Villani sees it, so long as it is not marshalled in service of the single biggest challenges we have:听听our social, economic and environmental futures. His government-commissioned paper on the best deployed and most strategic uses of AI includes chapters on the transformation of education, the preservation of work, the expansion of diversity and inclusion, creation of a more ecological economy, greater protection of the environment, disruption of the transportation sector, a renewed politics of public health, innovation in the field of agriculture, new approaches to security and defense, all of which must be framed by the necessary scaffolding of governance and ethical controls to improve our chances of a better human future.

In an effort to offer a platform for debate upon these issues, The American University of Paris is hosting a lecture series in academic year 2021-2022, open to the public via videoconferencing (kindly sign up for individual lectures below) and devoted to an understanding of the impact of technology on the human future. The University convenes this series of lectures as it opens a new Master of Science degree in Human Rights and Data Science in Fall 2021.听 Speakers have been invited within their presentations to address both听theory--analyses of the social, economic, political, environmental and human impacts of technology on our lives鈥攁nd听practice, proposing ways that technology can be explicitly marshalled for good:听to unleash creativity and disruption within traditional markets, to diminish human rights abuses, to drive activism and social change, to reduce racial and gender violence and economic inequity, and to strengthen our democracies and democratic practices.听听The responsibility for understanding and critiquing the role of technology on our lives and for measuring and regulating its impact on human beings and societies remains ours.听听

All events will be held virtually via Zoom. Registration will be available via the BT天堂 Events Calendar and registration links will appear below. Zoom links will be sent to participants the day before each听event.

FALL 2021

  • - Dec. 1, 17h00 (CET):听听"Creativity in the Era of Big Data"听
    Seth Farbman,听Former CMO of Spotify, current Executive Fellow, Yale University School of Management


  • 听- Jan. 18, 17h00 (CET):听"Faking Emotions and a Therapeutic Role for Robots and Chatbots: Ethics of Using AI in Psychotherapy"听
    Bipin Indurkhya,听Professor, Cognitive Science Department, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland
  • 听- Jan. 25, 17h00 (CET):听"Your Personal Diary is No Longer Private and You Are Not Even Its PrimaryAuthor"听
    Georgi Stojanov,听Professor of Computer Science at BT天堂
  • 听- Feb. 3, 17h00听(CET)听"Gender, Inclusivity and Technology"听
    Gabriela Ramos,听Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO
  • 听- Feb. 10, 17h00 (CET):听鈥淭echnology, Activism and the Social Good鈥澨
    Jessica Feldman,听Assistant Professor of Communication, Media & Culture; Director, Civic Media Lab at BT天堂
  • 听- Mar. 10, 17h00 (CET):听"Human Dignity and the Calculus of Human Worth"听
    Margarita Boenig-Liptsin,听Fellow, Institut d'脡tudes Avanc茅es (IEA) and incoming Assistant Professor of Ethics, Technology and Society, ETH Zurich
  • 听- Mar. 17, 17h00 (CET): "AI + Algorithmics: A Sword for Progress or for Self-Destruction?"
    Cedric Villani,听Mathematician and recipient of the Fields Medal, politician and Member of Parliament for Essonne
  • 听- Mar. 24, 17h00 (CET):听"Data Science and Higher Education: New Opportunities for the Liberal Arts"听
    Susan Perry,听Professor of Political Science and Program Director, MAs in International Affairs at BT天堂 and听Claudia Roda,听Professor of Computer Science听and Program Director, MSc in Human Rights and Data Science at BT天堂
  • 听- Apr. 20, 17h00 (CET):听"The Ethics of Technological Self-Defense"听
    David Wright,听Founder and听Director of Trilateral Research
  • 听- Apr. 27, 17h00 (CET):听"Data, Artificial Intelligence and Our Responsibilities"听
    Jon Iwata,听Founding Executive Director of the Data and Trust Alliance