Tech colleges launch ETHICx to explore responsible research practices

The Ethics, Technology and Human Interaction Center has been in development for the past three years. It is officially launching in November with a forum during Ethics Awareness Week. // Photo courtesy of news.gatech.edu

Tech is well-known for engineering innovative solutions in science and technology, but often, the most overlooked problems Tech students and faculty are working to solve lie outside of the world of STEM.

The sciences remain crucial to modern development; consider for example, the key significance of health and disease sciences this year. However, other principal concerns of 2020 belong to the topics of equity and inclusivity. These issues prompted the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and the College of Computing to team up and launch the Ethics, Technology, and Human Interaction Center (ETHICx).

ETHICx has been in development for three years with the help of funding from the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research. It will officially launch with a forum during Ethics Awareness Week in November. The center plans to leverage the event to pinpoint crucial obstacles in technology ethics. Details are to be announced by the center soon.

Technology continues to rapidly advance in the 21st century, in part due to the work of the Tech community. With the advances come questions of what is ethical, responsible research and experimentation. The new Center will venture to expand upon ethics in technology at Tech through education, involvement and research.

The key goal of the Center is to expand upon the studies of ethics, responsible research and the development of scientific industries at Tech. As new technology emerges, ETHICx seeks to foster an environment to aid in this advancement for the betterment of humanity. Several ethical concerns the center seeks to address within this field are accountability, equity, social justice and transparency.

“In the School of Interactive Computing, we encourage all of our faculty and student researchers to think critically about the new challenges their research presents and offer strategies to mitigate any potential negative impact on society,” Ayanna Howard, chair in the School of Interactive Computing, said in an interview published by Tech.

“Good innovation isn’t just about developing new technologies; it’s about developing solutions to problems that can make the world a better, more equitable, and more inclusive place.”

Howard, along with Kaye Husbands Fealing, dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, serve as co-directors of ETHICx.

“ETHICx will be a place for robust, multidisciplinary research and a place to engage in systematic ethical analyses,” Husbands Fealing said.

“It also will be a place for communities, corporations, governments, technologists, educators, and others to discuss and find solutions to complex ethical issues in science and technology.”

While computer science and liberal arts may not appear to have a lot in common, both are rooted in responsible and interdisciplinary communication. In fact, the two came together in 2004 at Tech to create the Computational Media degree, a unique meld of computing and the Ivan Allen B.S. degree Literature, Media and Communication.

“There are a lot of different threads that you can take in Computational Media that tie together the humanities and computer science, like People and Film and Media Studies, where you can learn about culture and the arts and how they interact with computer science,” Hannah Wysocki, first year CM, said.

This union stems from the belief that the humanities are essential to creating a more inclusive environment in research and technology and to pushing society as a whole to explore the answers of yet unasked questions. Computer science and technology are a lot about innovation and creating new ways to solve problems, and humanities and the arts involve creativity. Through combining the two, research can introduce innovative, creative solutions.

This concept is not just limited to the College of Computing and the Ivan Allen College; it encompasses the goals of every college here at Tech as well as the Institute as a whole. The intent of the Tech community is to improve the human condition, through science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and, yes, ethics too.