2010 Uehiro Conference
The 2010 Uehiro/Carnegie/Oxford Conference addressed the relationships and interconnections between information and technology, law, ethics and society. A highly interdisciplinary group of leading international experts were brought together to address the theme, leading to a vigorous and fruitful discussion that traversed disciplinary boundaries with ease. The presentations could be described as broadly falling into the following three main areas:
1) Legal and Empirical
Dr Fumio Shimpo (Keio) described the nature of "life-logs" - computer archives of personal everyday life - and discussed the technical and legal issues that arise in relation to them; Dr William Dutton (Oxford) used empirical data about internet usage and attitudes to argue that moral panics over the internet produce a threat of over-regulation that we must resist; Professor Johannes Britz (Wisconsin) described the nature of an information-poor society and the problems it causes for development. A particular highlight in this area was the presentation of Dr David Erdos (Oxford), which gave an overview of UK law on data protection and - with great clarity and insight - went on to describe some of its difficulties and ethical shortcomings.
2) Ethical problems in information ethics
Professor Tadashi Takenouchi (Tokyo) argued that information theory reveals double standards in our treatment of free speech cases. Dr Anders Sandberg (Oxford) discussed the ethical implications of new technologies that extend the self and provide for collective intelligence. Another highlight was the presentation of Professor Helen Nissenbaum (New York), which led to a particularly spirited discussion. It brought a theoretical perspective on the regulation of information flows, setting out Nissenbaum's theory of privacy as contextual integrity and arguing that it need not be taken to imply moral relativism.
3) Broader reflection on how attention to technology, information ethics and systems science can teach us about ethics and the humanities
Professor Wolfgang Hofkirchner (Vienna University of Technology) argued that by adopting the framework of sustainability, we might better understand an apparently diverse range of ethical values. Professor Lucas Introna (Lancaster) argued with admirable clarity that online encounters with virtual Others are of hitherto unrecognized significance for thinking about ethics and the nature of ethical commitment. Professor Rafael Capurro (Steinbeis University Berlin) offered historically-informed reflections on what it means to go beyond humanism, arguing that the angeletic theory of messengers and messages - and the thought of our modern selves as a humanity linked by our communication of messages - can lead us toward an ethics of openness and situatedness. A highlight was the keynote speech that kicked off the conference by Professor Toru Nishigaki (Tokyo). Nishigaki contrased Japanese (relational) and Western (hierarchical) attitudes towards technology and robots, then diagnosed some of the differences in Japanese attitudes as connected with a failure to appreciate the nature and importance of autonomy, as the concept is understood in western philosophy.
The opening and closing addresses by Professor Julian Savulescu (Oxford) and by Mr Hisateru Onozuka (Director, Uehiro Foundation) respectively, and the dinner speeches by Dr Noboru Maruyama (The Secretary-General, Uehiro Foundation), Dr Joel Rosenthal (President, The Carnegie Council) and Professor Andrew Hamilton (The Vice-Chancellor, Oxford University), sounded notes of great appreciation for our generous funders, and for the lasting importance of the scholarship and collaboration that they have provided for.
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