Fighting the Future: Ethics & Algorithms

None at Berg'n

Wed, Sep 11 at 7:30 p.m.   |   90 minutes

Algorithms are quickly replacing human judgment in the criminal justice system and there are a lot of technical and social criticism about their implementation. After looking at these sides, we will zoom out and look at the situation in a philosophical context and discuss the ethics of algorithms.

‚ÄčAt different stages of the criminal justice system, from policing, bail hearings, and sentencing, computerized algorithms are replacing human decision-making in determining where to police, who to arrest, who goes to jail, and who goes free. This Olio will introduce people to how these algorithms work, the under-appreciated moral problems with their implementation, and how the future of criminal justice depends on decisions we make now about the risks we are willing to tolerate for public safety.


These algorithms are quickly replacing human judgment in the criminal justice system, promising everything from effective policing to solving the problem of mass incarceration. There are a lot of technical and social criticism about their implementation, with pessimists pointing out that they reinforce class and racial bias in the justice system, and optimists claiming that they can correct for human error and prejudice in ways humans never could. The moral questions underlying criminal justice algorithms are much deeper. Algorithms in criminal justice are meant to predict the unknown, including future crimes, and direct the state to intervene in punitive ways to prevent such crimes. But what are the moral rules that govern how far we can go to prevent predicted wrongdoing?

Teacher: Barry Lam
Venue: Berg'n

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Liaisons Host an Olio

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of art and literature.