John Basl (Northeastern University), Jeff Behrend (Harvard University), David Gray Grant (UTSA)

When: 29.01.2021 at 5pm CET

Where: The seminar will be held online on Microsoft Teams. The link is (no password needed):

What We Owe to Decision Subjects: Beyond Transparency and Explanation in Automated Decision-Making

Abstract. Moral concern with the use of “black box” systems in high-stakes decision-making contexts has largely centered around transparency: what it is, whether it can be secured in automated systems, and what to do if it cannot. We argue that centering transparency in the moral evaluation of automated decision-making is problematic, and potentially obscures rather than illuminates what is of central more importance. By beginning with a broader look at what we owe to decision subjects generally, we are able to distinguish two kinds of consideration that they are owed: evidential and moral. Giving due consideration of each kind sometimes requires that a system be transparent, but both the kind and degree of transparency depend on the fundamental normative considerations at play in a given context. Grounding our moral appraisal at that level, rather than beginning with transparency and reasoning outward from it, offers a more promising path forward.

John Basl is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University. He specializes in bioethics, the ethics of AI, and philosophy of biology.

Jeff Behrends is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Harvard University, and the Director of Ethics and Technology Initiatives at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. He specializes in meta-normativity and the ethics of AI.

David Gray Grant is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at The University of Texas at San Antonio. He specializes in philosophy of science and the ethics of technology.

The seminars are part of a 3-year interuniversity project (PRIN) on “New challenges for applied ethics”.