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Virtual event

Voices in the Code: A Story about People, Their Values, and the Algorithm They Made

David G. Robinson in conversation with Professor Shannon Vallor

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Date and time
5:00pm – 6:30pm, 16 November 2022 (GMT)


The Ada Lovelace Institute is delighted to be hosting a virtual event with David G. Robinson, visiting scholar at the Social Science Matrix at UC Berkeley and a member of the faculty at Apple University, where he will be discussing his new book, Voices in the Code, with Shannon Vallor, the Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Edinburgh.

Policymakers and the public often find algorithms to be complex, opaque and intimidating, and it can be tempting to pretend that the hard moral questions they raise have simple technological answers. But that approach leaves experts holding the moral microphone, and it stops people who lack expertise from making their voices heard.

Policymakers and academics are seeking better ways to share the moral decision-making within high stakes software, exploring ideas like public participation, transparency, forecasting and audits.

However, there are few real examples. In Voices in the Code, scholar David G. Robinson tells the story of how one community built a life-and-death algorithm in a relatively inclusive, accountable way.

Between 2004 and 2014, a diverse group of patients, surgeons, clinicians, data scientists, public officials and advocates collaborated and compromised to build a new transplant matching algorithm – a system to offer donated kidneys to patients from the US waiting list.

Drawing on interviews with key stakeholders, unpublished archives and a wide scholarly literature, Robinson shows how this new Kidney Allocation System emerged and evolved over time, as participants gradually built a shared understanding both of what was possible, and of what would be fair.

Over the course of the conversation Robinson will tell the story of how this algorithmic system was developed, as well as begin to explore the limits of participation, transparency, forecasting and auditing and draw out some lessons for the broader struggle to build technology in a democratic and accountable way.

You can watch a recording of the launch event below.

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