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Introducing Bristol’s first Tech Ethics meetup

Technology is deeply embedded in our society, redefining our social interactions, healthcare, education, public policy, jobs and every aspect of our lives.

The use of AI and emerging technologies bring new benefits, but also challenges and ethical concerns about the social implication and potential unintended consequences these technologies can have in our society.

Tech Ethics Bristol is organised by a team of volunteers who are passionate about building a fair and equal society where technology is a catalyst for positive change.

Designing a better future is everyone’s responsibility and we want to create a space for the local and global community to discuss, learn and exchange ideas in an open and inclusive way.

We value a multidisciplinary approach and we welcome businesses, academics, students and people from diverse backgrounds and levels of expertise.

Our events will cover a variety of topics related to Technology and Ethics, including:

  • Data and Privacy
  • Algorithmic Fairness
  • Democracy and Misinformation
  • Value Alignment and Human Rights
  • AI Ethics and Governance
  • Value Sensitive Design
  • AI and Sustainability
  • Jobs and Automation
  • Accessibility

Story behind it

Our Head of Data Recruitment, Alex Cosgrove met Karin on a video Meetup discussing ethics and data and found they were both passionate about raising awareness of the importance of ethical considerations in the Tech & Data space. Given the rapid pace of digital transformation, app development and AI, if students, academics & businesses don’t take into account ethical considerations there is a considerable risk of things going very wrong, discrimination and accessibility issues will arise. This could lead to the perception and confidence of the general public adopting these great advances in technology being badly damaged.

Karin was developing a website to provide free resources in the form of content and links to free training courses that could address this gap. Alex wanted to start an event series covering Technology & AI Ethics considerations to raise awareness with the local business community.
By launching Tech Ethics Bristol, they’ve joined forces to create a Meetup group for academics, students and professionals in the tech and data space to share thoughts, opinions, highlight future developments and to generally discuss what’s happening now and how we can help raise awareness of these things.

Bio of Karin
Karin Rudolph, the co-organiser of Tech Ethics Bristol is a Sociologist with studies in Philosophy and a deep interest in the societal aspects of technology and Artificial Intelligence.

She is the Founder of Collective Intelligence, a global community that brings together businesses, academics and professionals from different backgrounds to share resources, research and best practices in the field of Ethics of Technology.

She is passionate about making technology accessible to the broader community, including professionals from a non-technical background and young people.

Karin plays an active role active in the Bristol Tech Community as part of the Steering Board of the Bristol Technology Festival and as Course Director of the newly created Newicon Academy.

Alex @ ALDIB: So Karin, how have you become interested in Technology Ethics and what has prompted you to create Collective Intelligence for the Tech community?

Karin: I have been interested in the social aspects of technology for a long time, starting as part of my Sociology degree and more recently while working in the Technology training and education space.

I’m fascinated by the way we relate to technology and the way that it is transforming every aspect of our lives, bringing great opportunities but also unintended consequences.

I see technology as a force that can be used to enhance our lives and enable social change and to achieve this, we need to make sure that we are creating technology that doesn’t reinforce and amplify inequalities, discrimination and abuse of power.

Ethics applied to technology plays a huge role in providing a deeper understanding of the motivations and potential consequences behind the technology we are creating today.

And it’s everyone’s responsibility to develop a mindset where ethical thinking is included in every step of the developing process and not an afterthought that we add when the effects of technologies are damaging and pervasive.

That’s why I believe that Developers, Data Scientists, Tech leaders and the general public should be encouraged to have meaningful discussions about the society we want to live in and this includes the actions we need to take to deal with disinformation, biases, and privacy issues, all topics that have now become part of discussions in mainstream media and social networks.

This is a huge step, but it’s only the beginning.

A collective effort is needed to provide spaces where the wider community can learn and feel empowered to make informed decisions in these important areas.

Alex @ ALDIB: What’s the purpose of Collective Intelligence?

Karin: In the past few years, I have had the opportunity to attend conferences and initiatives discussing Tech Ethics and this has made me realise that there is a good amount of disagreement about the terminology and ways we face some important ethical issues.

Knowledge of moral theories and an understanding of how machines make decisions is critical.

But how can we have access to this information when in many cases we don’t even know what we are looking for?

Universities have recently started incorporating Ethics as part of their syllabus in technical careers, and that is a big change.

But we also need to make sure that people from a variety of backgrounds and also those who studied years ago, can benefit from this knowledge as they are now making decisions affecting millions of people.

There are also a lot of misconceptions when it comes to ethics applied to technology, from organisations considering this to be an additional part of their Corporate Social Responsibility strategy or a PR exercise.

But developing technology that is ethically aligned with human values is not a box-ticking exercise and requires an understanding of the complexity of society as a whole.

I created Collective Intelligence as a space to exchange ideas, stimulate discussions, and above all, to make the field of Technology Ethics accessible to everyone.

Alex @ ALDIB: Who do you think would benefit from what you’re covering on the site?

Karin: I’m just starting with this project while juggling work, studies and other commitments. so I’m mainly curating resources produced by universities, researchers and organisations.

My goal is to create learning materials that can be passed to tech entrepreneurs, business leaders, students and even schools kids!

I want to make this knowledge and discussions about Technology Ethics a natural part of our relationship with technology, so people from diverse backgrounds and levels of expertise can have access to a variety of free resources.

Sharing knowledge is vital and for me, it is also crucial not to tell people what to think, but to provide them with the right tools so they can think by themselves.

Alex @ ALDIB: How do you think Technology Ethics Bristol Meetup events can benefit the Tech and Data academic and professional communities?

Karin: The first time that you and I talked about organising this Meetup in Bristol we couldn’t believe that there weren’t any events or initiatives dedicated to Technology Ethics in the city.

Bristol has a very active tech community with businesses developing groundbreaking technologies and with a big focus on investment and scalability, yet not many instances to discuss the ethical implications of what we are creating.

I’ve met amazing local people fighting for equality, social and economic justice and better environmental practices and they have been a real inspiration to start this project.

But the big change, I believe, is yet to come, we need to transform our political and economic practices to benefit not only a few; shifting from a society focused on shareholders to a society focused on creating value while respecting human rights and the environment.

Alex @ ALDIB: Tell us a bit about the first speaker we have for the launch of the Technology Ethics Bristol meetup series?

Karin: We are very excited that our launch event will have Miranda Mowbray, Honorary Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Bristol.

Miranda is an affiliate scholar of the PiLoTlab tech policy lab at Penn State University and a member of the Advisory Council for the Open Rights Group.

She also worked for more than two decades as a Senior Researcher at Hewlett-Packard.

Miranda will be delivering a presentation on Bias in AI text processing, and she will talk about the demographic bias that can occur in natural language processing, focusing on the large language models.

I have had the opportunity to attend some of Miranda’s presentations and her passion and commitment to Technology Ethics is truly inspirational.

Miranda Mowbray will speak at our Launch Event on Friday 16th April 2021.

For more information – please check out the Technology Ethics Bristol Meetup and LinkedIn Groups.

Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/tech-ethics-bristol/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/71233209/

Technology Ethics Bristol is brought to you by Collective Intelligence (https://www.collective-intelligence.co.uk/) and sponsored by ADLIB (https://www.adlib-recruitment.co.uk/).