Rodrigo Ferreira


As concerns about the inequitable social impacts of AI have widened over the last few years, AI-ethics researchers have increasingly steered their focus away from the normative dimension of AI design — whether an engineering decision is “right” or “wrong” — toward issues more traditionally grounded in the realm of society and politics, such as historical social inequalities and systematic discrimination. Throughout this transition, several different concepts and initiatives have emerged that aim to capture the spirit of this conceptual change, yet unwittingly have also helped create a degree of discursive ambiguity and division. Is the purpose of “ethical AI” ultimately to help promote social good? To serve the public interest? To create more justice? As this presentation will explain, the terms and examples that we use to describe the purpose of ethical AI are critical because each one carries a particular set of conceptual affordances and limitations that can hinder opportunities for cooperation between social actors. For this reason, it is critical that we develop a set of common examples and conceptual tools to help academic researchers, technology developers and social activists more effectively work together toward a common future.


Rodrigo Ferreira is an assistant teaching professor in computer science at Rice University. In this role, Ferreira teaches numerous courses in technology and ethics and is responsible for developing ethics and social justice curricula across the computer science department. In addition to his pedagogical practice and research, Ferreira is the English translator of Mexican-Ecuadorian philosopher Bolívar Echeverría’s “Modernity and Whiteness” (Polity 2019) and co-author of the Mexican National Agenda public policy report on AI Ethics. Ferreira has a Ph.D. in media, culture and communication from New York University and has presented his research on technology, culture and society at academic and professional conferences across the U.S., Latin America and Europe.

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