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Project Details

The rapid progress of AI and Big Data signals the revolutionary potential that new technologies have for improving our lives. Healthcare, the justice system, transportation, human resources, and disaster response – these are just a few of many areas where the promise of AI and Big Data is to provide us with better services, free us from tedious tasks, and ensure fair outcomes for everyone.

However, with great progress and potential also come great challenges. Academic, business, and government leaders are grappling with the ethical questions surrounding AI and Big Data, such as who should be in charge of its regulation and accountable for its shortcomings, how can we uphold the principles of individual privacy and security in the face of new technologies, and what are the unknown psychological, social, economic, and ecological effects of AI on our well-being. Companies are scrambling to set up professional ethics review boards and hire professional ethics officers to oversee the creation of corporate principles, while governments are trying to catch up with technologies employed at a much faster pace than public policies can respond to them.

In light of these challenges surrounding emerging technologies, the goal of the project “Leading Ethically in the Age of AI and Big Data” was to prepare future leaders to bridge the gap between ethical decision-making and the vast possibilities that are AI and Big Data. The next generation of experts from across many fields – including business, technology, communication, arts, and humanities – will need to be well-equipped to ensure that emerging technologies truly meet their potential to make our lives better. The project nurtured responsible and accountable leadership by providing future leaders with professional ethical education in areas of AI and Big Data.

Formulating Principles of Professional Ethics of AI and Big Data

The first step towards fulfilling this goal was to formulate the guiding standards of professional ethics of AI and Big Data that future industry leaders ought to espouse. This goal was accomplished in a two-fold way. First, through a series of virtual and in-person events focused on the most pressing ethical issues of AI and Big Data, featuring leading experts from business, the tech industry, and academia. Second, through the creation of a Tech Ethics Video Series. Featuring presentations by leading national and international technology and ethics experts, the videos explore a wide array of themes regarding ethical considerations across new digital technologies. The series is intended to serve as a resource to introduce complex issues within tech ethics and stimulate discussion in the classroom and beyond. 

Building Model Curricula

The recommendations formulated at the convenings were used by the project’s interdisciplinary on-campus Working Group in the process of developing model curricula in professional ethics of AI and Big Data. Under the guidance of the project’s Advisory Committee, the experts in the Working Group defined a framework for incorporating professional ethics of AI and Big Data into undergraduate education at Purdue. The second stage of the project will focus on the implementation of these curricula in the form of a certificate program, following the model of the Cornerstone Integrated Liberal Arts certificate.

Purdue as a National Leader in the Ethics of AI and Big Data

Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts already assumes a leadership role when it comes to on-campus interdisciplinary efforts that lie at the intersection of Liberal Arts and STEM, through initiatives such as lecture series At the Intersection of Liberal Arts & STEM and Lectures in Ethics, Policy, and Science, Cornerstone, as well as the College's participation in The Data Mine initiative. The present project solidified Purdue’s standing as one of the nation’s leading institutions in the area of professional ethics of emerging technologies by providing the cross-campus collaboration between STEM and Liberal Arts faculty and students with a formal platform. Furthermore, the project's events allowed experts at Purdue to connect with the world’s leading authorities in AI and Big Data, which fueled an already active research community on Purdue’s campus.