IEEE TechEthics - Washington DC - 13 October 2017


Advancing technology for the benefit of humanity is the IEEE tagline. In order for technology to benefit humanity, it is essential to address ethical concerns and societal implications.

The IEEE TechEthics Conference featured luminaries in technology, philosophy, ethics, policy development and more. In addition to keynotes by Rodney Brooks and Danielle Bassett, the program for this highly interactive event included multimedia showings by Heather Knight and a series of panels addressing significant and provocative questions related to artificial intelligence, autonomous transportation, neuroscience, and ethics education.

The program also provided ample opportunity for audience engagement, via extended Q&A sessions, regular refreshment breaks, an extended lunch, and a post-program networking hour.


This event is part of the IEEE TechEthics Conversations Series, which provides a platform for addressing ethical and societal implications across a variety of technology areas. The series is comprised of a year-round calendar of virtual and in-person sessions. For more information on this and other aspects of the IEEE TechEthics program, please subscribe to our community .



Download full program (PDF, 2.2MB)


Rodney BrooksRodney Brooks

Rethink Robotics
Chairman and CTO
 View Talk


Accurately Estimating AI Progress is Difficult
Brought to you by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society

AI outsiders have trouble estimating AI progress because of a general tendency to overestimate technologies in the short term, a non-transparent understanding of how the technology works, applying human models that relate performance and competence that are not valid for AI, and having to dig deep to truly understand the suitcase words used by researchers. AI researchers have trouble estimating AI progress due to fragility of technological progress when it meets the impedance of human change and adoption, and because they get misled by imagining the future in the same way that Hollywood script writers do. There will be tremendous uptake of AI and robotics over the next few decades, but perhaps most of that will be more mundane than many imagine.

Rodney BrooksDanielle Bassett

University of Pennsylvania
Eduardo D. Glandt Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor,
Department of Bioengineering

 View Talk


Emerging Technologies for the Control of Human Brain Dynamics
Brought to you by the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society

When a human brain is plagued by disease or injury, clinicians and engineers work together to devise interventions -- such as brain stimulation by exogenous or implantable devices -- aimed at mitigating symptoms and restoring healthy function. Yet, historically these efforts have been hampered by the fact that while the interventions are targeted to a single brain area, they have an unexpected and puzzling impact on other brain areas distant from the target region. Recent groundbreaking work at the intersection of neuroscience, control theory, and network science, offers a theoretical framework in which to understand and predict these distant effects, and to define personalized interventions to push the brain from its current state to a desired final state. In this talk, I will review these recent developments, outline their promise for enhancing cognition and for treating disorders of mental health, discuss their current limitations, and highlight relevant ethical considerations.



Featured Talk/Multimedia

Heather KnightHeather Knight

Oregon State University
Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Robotics
 View Talk


Robot Storytelling for Ethical Origins, Services, and Futures

A series of short films curated by Heather will be incorporated throughout the program, followed by a talk on various aspects of the social and ethical implications of robotics, AI and related technologies, as highlighted in the films.




The Social and Personal Impacts of AI
Brought to you by the IEEE Standards Association

AI is driving big changes in the way we live, work and even think. It will affect all business sectors and all aspects of daily life. This panel will explore the social and personal impacts of AI as we embark on this journey.

Sara R. JordanSara R. Jordan

Virginia Tech
Assistant Professor, Center for Public Administration and Policy

Terah LyonsTerah Lyons


Mary Ward-CallanMary Ward-Callan

Managing Director, Technical Activities



Self-Driving Cars and Beyond: Societal Impacts of Autonomous Transportation Systems

While cars tend to dominate the current conversation on autonomous transportation, planes, ships and other means have also become increasingly reliant on non-human interaction. This panel will explore the social implications of the broader autonomous vehicles landscape.

Jason BorensteinJason Borenstein

Georgia Institute of Technology
Director of Graduate Research Ethics Programs and Associate Director of the Center for Ethics

Mary CummingsMary (Missy) Cummings

Duke University
Director, Humans and Autonomy Laboratory

Philip RossPhilip Ross

IEEE Spectrum
Senior Editor



Mind/Brain Research and AI Development: How Do They Inform Each Other?
Brought to you by IEEE Brain Initiative

Intensive efforts to re-create human cognition will transform the way people work, learn, and play. This panel will explore the relationship between brain research and artificial intelligence advancements, including the social and ethical implications of building machines that think like humans.

Stephanie J. BirdStephanie J. Bird, PhD

Science and Engineering Ethics

David DanksDavid Danks

Carnegie Mellon University
L.L. Thurstone Professor of Philosophy and Psychology, and Head of the Department of Philosophy

Eleonore PauwelsEleonore Pauwels

Wilson Center, Science and Technology Innovation Program
Director of the AI Lab

Michael WolmetzMichael Wolmetz

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Senior Scientist, Intelligent Systems Center



Influencing the Next Generation of Engineers via Ethics Education

This panel explores the opportunities and challenges regarding educating ethical engineers in the 21st century, given the rapid advance and growing complexity of technology. Panelists will discuss: the need to prepare future professionals for the fact that much of unethical behavior is due to being so completely absorbed by a particular engineering problem that, as Richard Feynman put it, “you stop thinking”; the need to contextualize engineering ethics through exposing engineering students to concepts and methods drawn from science and technology studies; and bringing ethics into engineering design labs by introducing concepts such as privacy by design.


Joe HerkertJoe Herkert

North Carolina State University
Associate Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology and Society, and Visiting Scholar, Genetic Engineering and Society Center

Deborah G. JohnsonDeborah G. Johnson

University of Virginia
Anne Shirley Carter Olsson Professor of Applied Ethics, Emeritus

Deirdre K. MulliganDeirdre K. Mulligan

UC Berkeley
Associate Professor, School of Information, and Faculty Director, Berkeley Center for Law & Technology









National Academy of Sciences Building | 2101 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20418


“We call it the building for the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council, but in reality it should be the nation's home of science in America, and will be looked upon by our fellow citizens and the world at large as the place where the creative mind will be able to do much to bring about a better existence for the future people of the world.” – NAS President Charles D. Walcott, 1922




Partners & Contributors

The 2017 IEEE TechEthics Conference is funded in part by a grant from:

IEEE Foundation



Content and Promotional Partners include:

National Academy of Engineering
IEEE Brain
IEEE Standards Association
IEEE Robotics & Automation Society
IEEE Spectrum
Carnegie Mellon University
IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology

The “Bridge” logo is used with permission of the National Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Engineering.





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