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ABSTRACT: A century ago, John Dewey observed that '[s]team and electricity have done more to alter the conditions under which men associate together than all the agencies which affected human relationships before our time'. In the last few decades, computing technologies have had a similar effect. Political philosophy's central task is to help us decide how to live together, by analysing our social relations, diagnosing their failings, and articulating ideals to guide their revision. But these profound social changes have left scarcely a dent in the model of social relations that (analytical) political philosophers assume. This essay aims to reverse that trend. It first builds a model of our novel social relations—as they are now, and as they are likely to evolve—and then explores how those differences affect our theories of how to live together. I introduce the 'Algorithmic City'—the network of algorithmically-mediated social relations—then characterise the intermediary power by which it is governed, and contrast that intermediary power with the top-down power of the state in the physical city. I show how algorithmic governance raises new challenges for political philosophy concerning the justification of authority, the foundations of procedural legitimacy, and the possibility of justificatory neutrality.
Seth Lazar is Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University, an Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow, and a Distinguished Research Fellow of the University of Oxford Institute for Ethics in AI. He has worked on the ethics of war, self-defence, and risk, and now leads the Machine Intelligence and Normative Theory (MINT) Lab, where he directs research projects on the moral and political philosophy of AI, funded by the ARC, the Templeton World Charity Foundation, and Insurance Australia Group. He was General Co-Chair for the ACM Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency conference 2022, and Program Co-Chair for the ACM/AAAI AI, Ethics and Society conference in 2021, and is one of the authors of a study by the US National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, which reported to Congress on the ethics and governance of responsible computing research. He has given the Mala and Solomon Kamm lecture in Ethics at Harvard University, and will in 2023 give the Tanner Lectures on AI and Human Values at Stanford University.
A light reception will follow the talk.