Theme

Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Algorithms

Regulation, Governance, Markets

Social, economic and cultural life is increasingly “automated” and “networked”, and at the center of this process of technology-driven socio-economic change is the rise of the “algorithm” — broadly understood, in this context, as software code defining a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or achieving some other goal.

 

Systems utilizing algorithms — particularly networked algorithms — are everywhere and increasingly structure all aspects of our lives. For instance, everyday experience of technology, access to information and consumer choices are all now organized by algorithms. Think smartphones, Google, Amazon, Uber, or AirBnB. Equally, businesses increasingly utilize algorithms as the defining feature of their business model or key element in their business operations. Think platforms, the sharing economy, supply chain management or employee performance evaluation. Finally, the reach of such technologies is constantly expanding and permeating more aspects of economic and social life — from banking (Fintech), transportation (autonomous vehicles), and the professions (e.g., medicine, the law, accountancy, etc.).

 

The result? Algorithms are a core part of an invisible technological infrastructure governing all aspects of reality. It is no exaggeration to suggest that we live in an algorithmically-driven world.

 

And yet, in spite of the many conveniences associated with the rise of algorithm-powered technologies, this change is not without controversy. Most obviously, there are concerns about privacy and data protection. Others suggest that our new dependency on algorithms “narrows” our minds: both individually and as a society, as choices made under the influence of algorithms makes us “prisoners” of previous decisions and stifle the capacity for personal development. Moreover, there are security concerns: algorithmically-driven platforms can be “gamed” and there are many examples of people attempting to “cheat” the system. Finally, there are the dangers in falling under the control of processes that most of us do not fully understand and which — in the medium to long term — may develop an independent intelligence.

 

This conference aims to bring together researchers from diverse fields in order to deepen our understanding of the meaning and effects of algorithms, and to think about how business, regulators and ordinary people can best respond to this fast-changing digital reality.

 

The conference will be structured around a number of key themes. Each theme is designed to provide a platform for multiple disciplinary perspectives on diverse issues associated with the rise of algorithms:

 

Technologies

Security, Privacy, Transparency

Ethics

Human-Machine Identities & Interfacing

Social Inclusion/Exclusion

Business

Regulation

The Future?

 

Many uncertainties — both practical and normative — surround the scope, direction and effects of algorithms and related technologies. This international and multi-disciplinary event aims to contribute to a better understanding of the diverse and complex issues surrounding the emergence of algorithms.