Evan Selinger: PhD master class and public lecture

Where: Department of Communication and Arts, Roskilde University, building 43.3-29b

When: Monday April 15, 2019, 11.30 – 17.00

Evan Selinger is a Professor of Philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology. His primary research is on the ethics of technology and privacy—issues he has written prolifically about in academic publications as well as across the public sphere, in places like The Guardian, The Atlantic, Wired, and The Nation. Selinger’s latest books are Re-Engineering Humanity (co-authored with Brett Frischmann) and The Cambridge Handbook of Consumer Privacy (co-edited with Jules Polonetsky and Omer Tene), both published in 2018 by Cambridge University Press. More information available here.

PhD master class

Registration: Marianne Sloth Hansen

Deadline: April 1, 2019

Credits: 1 ECTS (participation); 2 ECTS (participation and presentation)

This course will consider interrelated questions that are explored at length in the book Re-Engineering Humanity.

  1. In what environments are humans being programmed to behave more like simple machines than actualized human beings?
  2. Which of these environments are diminishing our human potential and why is this the case?
  3. In light of #2, what will it take to build a high-tech future that human beings can flourish in?

Emphasis will be placed on networked environments involving the internet and the internet of things. Special focus being given to the role of big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, user-experience design, and surveillance in these environments.

The goal of this class is to help students and researchers better understand and assess how humanity itself is being re-designed through decisions about technological development and technological policy. We will critically explore whether earlier historical expressions of technological pessimism, if not dystopianism, that once seemed overly reductive and melodramatic are, tragically, becoming incrementally realized under surveillance capitalism. Should such concerns seem legitimate and urgent, we will ask what it would take to imagine alternative futures.

See full posting here

Public lecture

Evan Selinger gives a public lecture before the PhD master class from 9.30 to 11.30 in building 41.1-14 “Biografen”:

9.30 – 10:30: Talk

10.30 – 11:00 Discussion

Don’t Re-Engineer Humanity With Facial Recognition Technology

In this talk, I’ll propose an argument that on its face will seem implausible—namely, that it should be impermissible for liberal democracies to legalize facial recognition technology. The argument would seem to be predicated upon a fundamental misunderstanding of what technology is. Like nearly all technologies, facial recognition systems are dual-use, capable of furthering good and bad ends alike. For example, facial recognition technology can help law enforcement identify criminals, stop terrorists, and find missing children; it also can facilitate law enforcement mistreating minorities and chilling activities that the United States protects under the 1st Amendment, such as free association and free expression.

The standard approach to facial recognition technology governance presumes that some regulatory scheme can do a fair job of incentivizing the good uses and curbing bad ones. Drawing from recent debates involving the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Microsoft, and Amazon, and the concepts “techno-social engineering,” “surveillance creep,” and “facial recognition creep,” I’ll consider whether these approaches err by making a fundamental category mistake—namely, treating facial recognition technology as being more like other surveillance instruments than a distinctive artifact with unique affordances that are best tempered by a ban to stop a perfect tool of oppression.