Presidential Lecture Series

Technology and the Human Future Series


In 2017, an opinion piece in The New York Times, “The Ivory Tower Can’t Keep Ignoring Tech,” called out universities for leaving the work of researching and regulating technology to the media and lobbyists. Cathy O’Neil, public intellectual and author of Weapons of Math Destruction, there exhorted: “We need academia to step up to fill in the gaps in our collective understanding about the new role of technology in shaping our lives. We need robust research on hiring algorithms that seem to filter out people with mental health disorders, sentencing algorithms that fail twice as often for black defendants as for white defendants, statistically flawed public teacher assessments or oppressive scheduling algorithms. And we need research to ensure that the same mistakes aren’t made again and again. It’s absolutely within the abilities of academic research to study such examples and to push against the most obvious statistical, ethical or constitutional failures and dedicate serious intellectual energy to finding solutions.”  

In fact, academics and scholars have been interested from the outset in the imbricated issues brought to the fore by accelerated technological development. Not only do all major universities today offer courses centering upon technology and ethics, but scholars and researchers have taken an active role in articulating, validating and communicating the ethical frameworks and policy recommendations proposed to guide technologists and lawmakers.  Indeed, universities may be the ideal locus for reflection upon how to achieve meaningful balance between technological innovation and regulation of the forces it inevitably releases. 

Technology will play an unarguably immense role in our human future and has equal power to destroy or redeem us.  Marc Dugain and Christophe Labbé, authors of L’Homme nu: la dictature invisible du numérique, write at the outset of their book: “The collection and analysis of data of all kinds will determine the century that is before us. Never in the history of mankind have we had access to such voluminous production of information.” They warn from the outset, paraphrased in English here, that the technological revolution will gradually and inexorably direct our lives toward a state of passivity, of voluntary service to forces larger than ourselves, the result of which will be the full loss of private life and an irreversible renunciation of our liberty.  French deputy and mathematician Cédric Villani takes another tack, insisting on yoking the power of technology to the protection of human beings and our planet.  The monumental impact of technology will remain an illusion, as Villani sees it, so long as it is not marshalled in service of the single biggest challenges we have:  our social, economic and environmental futures. His government-commissioned paper on the best deployed and most strategic uses of AI includes chapters on the transformation of education, the preservation of work, the expansion of diversity and inclusion, creation of a more ecological economy, greater protection of the environment, disruption of the transportation sector, a renewed politics of public health, innovation in the field of agriculture, new approaches to security and defense, all of which must be framed by the necessary scaffolding of governance and ethical controls to improve our chances of a better human future.

In an effort to offer a platform for debate upon these issues, The American University of Paris is hosting a lecture series in academic year 2021-2022, open to the public via videoconferencing (kindly sign up for individual lectures below) and devoted to an understanding of the impact of technology on the human future. The University convenes this series of lectures as it opens a new Master of Science degree in Human Rights and Data Science in Fall 2021.  Speakers have been invited within their presentations to address both theory--analyses of the social, economic, political, environmental and human impacts of technology on our lives—and practice, proposing ways that technology can be explicitly marshalled for good: to unleash creativity and disruption within traditional markets, to diminish human rights abuses, to drive activism and social change, to reduce racial and gender violence and economic inequity, and to strengthen our democracies and democratic practices.  The responsibility for understanding and critiquing the role of technology on our lives and for measuring and regulating its impact on human beings and societies remains ours.  


All events will be held virtually via Zoom. Registration will be available via the AUP Events Calendar and registration links will appear below. Zoom links will be sent to participants the day before each event.


FALL 2021

  • WATCH THE RECORDING - Dec. 1, 17h00 (CET):  "Creativity in the Era of Big Data" 
    Seth Farbman, Former CMO of Spotify, current Executive Fellow, Yale University School of Management


  • WATCH THE RECORDING - Jan. 18, 17h00 (CET): "Faking Emotions and a Therapeutic Role for Robots and Chatbots: Ethics of Using AI in Psychotherapy" 
    Bipin Indurkhya, Professor, Cognitive Science Department, Jagiellonian University, Cracow, Poland
  • WATCH THE RECORDING - Jan. 25, 17h00 (CET): "Your Personal Diary is No Longer Private and You Are Not Even Its Primary Author" 
    Georgi Stojanov, Professor of Computer Science at AUP
  • WATCH THE RECORDING - Feb. 3, 17h00 (CET) "Gender, Inclusivity and Technology" 
    Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO
  • WATCH THE RECORDING - Feb. 10, 17h00 (CET): “Technology, Activism and the Social Good” 
    Jessica Feldman, Assistant Professor of Communication, Media & Culture; Director, Civic Media Lab at AUP
  • WATCH THE RECORDING - Mar. 10, 17h00 (CET): "Human Dignity and the Calculus of Human Worth" 
    Margarita Boenig-Liptsin, Fellow, Institut d'Études Avancées (IEA) and incoming Assistant Professor of Ethics, Technology and Society, ETH Zurich
  • WATCH THE RECORDING - Mar. 17, 17h00 (CET): "AI + Algorithmics: A Sword for Progress or for Self-Destruction?"
    Cedric Villani, Mathematician and recipient of the Fields Medal, politician and Member of Parliament for Essonne
  • WATCH THE RECORDING - Mar. 24, 17h00 (CET): "Data Science and Higher Education: New Opportunities for the Liberal Arts" 
    Susan Perry, Professor of Political Science and Program Director, MAs in International Affairs at AUP and Claudia Roda, Professor of Computer Science and Program Director, MSc in Human Rights and Data Science at AUP
  • WATCH THE RECORDING - Apr. 20, 17h00 (CET): "The Ethics of Technological Self-Defense" 
    David Wright, Founder and Director of Trilateral Research
  • WATCH THE RECORDING - Apr. 27, 17h00 (CET): "Data, Artificial Intelligence and Our Responsibilities" 
    Jon Iwata, Founding Executive Director of the Data and Trust Alliance