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Moshe Vardi on Social Implications of Technology and Our Responsibility As Academics

Rice University computer science professor Moshe Y. Vardi.

Rice University computer science professor Moshe Y. Vardi believes ethics must be taught in computer science, but considers who should be doing the teaching.

Credit: ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science

Moshe Vardi is a professor of computer science at Rice University in the U.S. and holds numerous honors and awards. In this conversation he talks about the impact of technologies on society and how this challenges what computer science should be concerned about and our responsibilities to engage in these issues. What he has to say speaks not only to computer scientists but to all academics.

Side note: This is the first part of a much longer conversation. Part 2, coming out as a separate podcast, discusses the changes and challenges in academia more generally.

"Suddenly we [computer scientists] are running society and we are poorly equipped."

"We focus too much on ethics and not enough on policy."

"How do we make sure this technology is for the most effective use of mankind?" (Referencing Ada Lovelace)

"As a discipline we need to start asking, what is our (social) responsibility." "And a general question for academic, … what is our responsibility as academics?"

He talks about (times approximate) …  

01:35 Talking about his Jewish background and what it gave him in terms of social ethics, being a hard-core computer scientist, and a key event in 2011 when IBM Watson won in Jeopardy that made him think about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and implications for society, and that we as computer scientists are so poorly equipped. Now starting a new course on ethics on computer science for their third years.

11:00 Discussing different waves of computer science changes. And now increasing news media on technology impacts of Facebook, Apple devices. Physics had the focus in the 1940s with the first atomic bomb and got a social conscience. Biologists have a second moment now with CRISPR and genetic editing.  Calls for more ethical training of students, and by students.

From Changing Academic Life
View Full Article, link to podcast


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