AVA THOMAS WRIGHT

Ph.D. (Philosophy), M.S. (Artificial Intelligencd), J.D.

In the fall of 2020, I will be joining the faculty in the philosophy department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA, as an assistant professor.  I will be teaching Ethics, Science and Technology (PHIL 323), with an emphasis on the applied ethics of new and emerging AI technologies.  This summer I am finishing up a postdoctoral research fellowship in AI and Ethics at Northeastern University in Boston, MA.

Avenir Light is a clean and stylish font favored

My most recent research brings a distinctively Kantian insight into the coordinated relationship between law and ethics to bear on problems in machine and infomation ethics.

My Ph.D. dissertation's primary aim was to construct a Kantian defense of a legal "duty of veracity" when reporting expert knowledge, and my work for the M.S. in AI concerned explicitly ethical governance systems for autonomous agents. 

I am in an ideal position to address emerging issues in AI and information ethics, with expertise that is both broad and deep in law, business, ethics, political philosophy and AI. 

. It's easy on the eyes and a great go to font for titles, paragraphs & more.

EDUCATION

Ph.D. in Philosophy, August 2019

University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Dissertation: The Duty of Veracity

Advisor: Melissa Seymour Fahmy

 

M.S. in Artificial Intelligence, December 2018

University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Thesis: Rightful Machines

Advisor: Frederick Maier

 

M.A. in Philosophy, May 2010

Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA

Thesis: Subjectivity and Fallibility in the Instrumental and Epistemic Defenses of "A Right to Do Wrong"

Advisor: William Edmundson

J.D. cum laude (class rank in upper 10%), February 2000

Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA

B.A. in Philosophy, May 1995

Rice University, Houston, TX

I graduated from Rice University (B.A. in philosophy) in 1995 and chose to go to law school part-time at Georgia State University in Atlanta, rather than continue on to philosophy graduate school.   In the last two years of law school (1997-98), I co-founded a web development and ecommerce company (Blink Interactive).   Upon graduation from law school in late 1999, I decided to continue my work at Blink rather than in the law.  My partners and I sold the company to a national firm in late 2000, and I then worked for the acquiring company as a V.P. for another year or so.

I eventually returned to graduate school for philosophy at Georgia State (M.A. in philosophy 2010) and continued on to the University of Geogia in Athens, GA, where I completed both an M.S. in Artificial Intelligence (2018) at the Insitute for AI, and a Ph.D. in philosophy (2019). 

 


PUBLICATIONS

I have just begun my efforts to publish my work.  Most of my articles now under review are extensions of conference paper presentations (see below) and include topics such as Kant's justification for a duty of truthfulness (what i refer to as a duty of "veracity"), Mill's social epistemic defense of free speech, the flawed phiosophical rationale for group free expression rights in Citizens United, solving the trolley problem, formulating a deontic logic suitable for capturing legal obligations, and answer set programming autonomous systems.   Please contact me by email (below) if you would like to read my current work on any of these topics. 

“A Deontic Logic for Programming Rightful Machines” Proceedings from the 2020 AAAI/ACM Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society (forthcoming)

“Two Rationales for the Duty of Veracity in ‘On a Supposed Right to Lie From Philanthropy'” Proceedings from 13th International Kant Congress (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2020) (forthcoming)

“Rightful Machines and Dilemmas,” Proceedings from 2019 AAAI/ACM Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society

“Two Failures of Arthur Ripstein's Conception of Kantian Freedom as 'Purposiveness,'” Proceedings from 12th International Kant Congress (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2018): 2495-2504.

 


CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS

I have presented my work at conferences such as the APA (American Philosophy Association) divisional meetings (in NYC, San Diego, Seattle, and Chicago) and at international conferences such as the International Kant Congress (in Vienna and Oslo) and the AAAI/ACM Artificial Intelligence, Ethics and Society conference (in Honolulu and NYC).

"A Kantian Approach to Dilemmas: Solving the Trolley Problem" (prospective)

American Philosophical Association Central Division Meeting

(colloquium paper, main program)

26 February 2020, Chicago, IL

"A Kantian Solution to the Trolley Problem"

2020 Annual Internatinoal Conference of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE )

(colloquium paper, main program)

22 February, 2020, Atlanta, GA 

"A Deontic Logic for Programming Rightful Machines"

AAAI/ACM 2020 Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society

(main program)

7-8 February 2020, New York, NY

“Two Rationales for the Duty of Veracity in ‘On a Supposed Right to Lie...’”

13th International Kant Congress (held approximately every five years)

(colloquium paper)

4-6 August 2019, Oslo, Norway

“Rightful Machines”

CEPE (Computer Ethics—Philosophical Enquiry) 2019 Biennial Conference

(colloquium paper)

28–30 May 2019, Norfolk, VA

"Assurance and Lies"

American Philosophies Forum 2019 Conference (Topic: Truth)

4 April 2019, Atlanta, GA

"Rightful Machines and Dilemmas"

AAAI/ACM 2019 Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society

(main program)

27 January 2019, Honolulu, HI

"Rightful Machines and Logic Programming"

AAAI/ACM 2019 Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society

(student program)

28 January 2019, Honolulu, HI

"A Duty of Veracity as a Necessary Condition of Kantian Justice"

American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Meeting

(colloquium paper, main program)

10 January 2019, New York, NY

“The Duty of Veracity and the Innate Right of Freedom”

American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meeting

(poster presentation)

28 March 2018, San Diego, CA

"A Social Epistemic Rationale for the Absolute Freedom of Speech in Mill's On Liberty: Why We Must Put Up With Flat-Earthers of All Kinds"

American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meeting

(colloquium paper, main program)

12 April 2017, Seattle, WA

“The Duty of Veracity and Possible Universal Consent”

Georgia Philosophical Society

(colloquium paper)

8 April 2017, Young Harris, GA

"Business Corporations Do Not Have Moral Rights of Free Expression"

American Philosophical Association Central Division Meeting

(colloquium paper, main program)

4 March 2016, Chicago, IL

“Two Failures of Arthur Ripstein's Conception of Kantian Freedom as 'Purposiveness'”

12th International Kant Congress

(colloquium paper)

22 September 2015, Vienna, Austria

 

TEACHING

I was the instructor of record for these courses.

Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 (current)

TECHNOLOGY AND HUMAN VALUES (PHIL 1145)

Technological advancement is thought to proceed at an accelerating pace; “Moore’s law” predicts that approximately every two years, computing power and capacity advances as much as it has in the entire previous history of computing. Practical commercial or other applications of new and emerging technologies thus tend to quickly outstrip our understanding of their ethical implications or our efforts to regulate them by law.


This course is an introduction to the applied ethics of new and emerging technologies. Its first aim is to provide you with an understanding of rationally justifiable standards of ethics and justice that you can apply to evaluate new technologies. We will begin with some basics of philosophical moral theory: the main theoretical approaches to ethics (virtue ethics, deontology, and consequentialism), their relationships, their strengths and weaknesses, and how each generates or requires principles of justice and law. We will occasionally return to moral theory later in the course and your understanding of ethics will deepen as we progress.


The second main aim of the course is to examine the ethical and legal profile of some specific, important new and emerging technologies. We will first focus on three new artificial intelligence (AI) and information technologies: 1) “autonomous” machine agents or robots designed to drive cars, be personal assistants, provide domestic services, fight wars, etc., 2) machine-learning systems enabled by “big data” that automate or advise decisions such as whether you are creditworthy, a good job candidate, or should be held in jail pending trial, and 3) social media and publishing technologies for sharing and curating information. Finally, in the last part of the course, we will evaluate some new and emerging technologies of special interest to you...

Spring 2019 and Spring 2016

COGNITIVE SCIENCE (PHIL/ARTI 3550)

The goal of cognitive science is to understand how the mind works. In this course, we will try to answer this question by studying attempts to create artificially intelligent systems that perform some of the same cognitive tasks that we do. The successes and failures of such systems will help illuminate how our own cognition works.


There are three main theoretical approaches to creating artificial intelligence. The first two are computational: (i) symbolic representation and inference systems with their roots in formal logic, such as logic programming, and (ii) inductive or statistical machine learning systems, such as artificial neural networks (ANNs). The third approach departs somewhat from computationalism to conceive intelligence as radically embodied and dynamic. We will read and discuss classic articles that set out the foundations of cognitive science and each of these approaches, and then we will explore special topics such as machine ethics, the extended mind, vision, animal cognition, or consciousness, depending on students’ interests and ambitions. The emphasis in the course is philosophical rather than technical, and coursework and assignments will accordingly consist mainly in critical reading, discussion, and writing...

Fall 2017 and Fall 2016

ETHICS (PHIL 2030)

Philosophical ethics attempts to give rational answers to normative questions such as, What sort of person should I be? What moral duties do I have toward others (or toward myself)? What sort of world and society should there be? Why ought I be moral? In this course, we will study classic works of philosophical ethics that give answers to each of these questions, and then we will try to apply some of what we have learned to live ethical issues. The course therefore has two aims: (1) to provide an introduction to the most important ethical theories in philosophy, and (2) to improve students' ability to discuss and think clearly about ethical questions and issues.

At the end of the course you should be able to intelligently consider and discuss ethical issues by reference to basic philosophical ethical principles and normative forms of reasoning; moreover, you will have examined the arguments relevant to at least one ethical issue of interest to you in some depth. I also harbor some hope—as do the ethical philosophers we will read—that thinking with care about ethics will help you to become a better person, too...

Spring 2018 (Large Section. 300 student cap) and Fall 2015

LOGIC AND CRITICAL THINKING (PHIL 2020)

One of the best but most difficult things a human being can do is simply to think clearly. Logic is a discipline whose purpose is to help you to do this. In this course, we will first learn how to analyze arguments in a formal way using some of the tools of symbolic logic (propositional logic and predicate logic); then we will look at some fallacies of thinking and learn how to analyze some larger structures of argument. This course is largely a skills course and so will require practice and working problems.

Spring 2017

TOPICS IN SYMBOLIC LOGIC: MODAL AND DEONTIC LOGIC (PHIL 3510)

The topic of this course will be problems in deontic logic (the logic of normative obligations), with some attention paid to issues relevant to the problem of how deontic logic can be deployed to create artificially intelligent ethical agents. In the first part of the course, we will lay a foundation for deontic logic by studying modal logic (the logic of possibility and necessity) and its possible worlds semantics. The focus will be finding derivations and counterexamples for inferences, rather than metatheory. In the second part of the course, we will look at some variations and reformulations of the standard system, and then take up a number of paradoxes, issues, and applications of deontic logic. We will specifically consider some issues related to using deontic logic in artificial intelligence applications.

 

CONTACT

Department of Philosophy, 420 Renaissance Park, Boston, MA 02115 (fourth floor)

AV dot Wright at Northeastern dot EDU

 

©2019 by Ava Thomas Wright