Notre Dame, IBM launch Tech Ethics Lab to tackle the ethical implications of technology

Author: Patrick Gibbons

The University of Notre Dame in partnership with IBM today launched a collaboration that will address the myriad ethical concerns raised by the use of advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum computing, to address society’s most pressing problems.

Funded by a 10-year, $20 million IBM commitment, the new Notre Dame-IBM Tech Ethics Lab will conduct applied research and promote models for the ethical application of technology within the tech sector, business and government.

Based at Notre Dame, the Tech Ethics Lab will operate as a separate unit within the University’s Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC), conducting applied research that leverages Notre Dame’s growing strength in technology ethics and IBM’s deep expertise in artificial intelligence and other emerging areas of innovation, as well as IBM’s strong industry connections. 
ND-TEC was formed as a result of interest and leadership from Sarah Mustillo, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, and Thomas G. Burish, the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost.

The lab will serve as the convener for technology-related ethics expertise, bringing together academia and industry to develop and deliver evidence-based ethics frameworks to address new and emerging technologies. Its work will be especially important as society grapples with the role of technology in moving us through and beyond the coronavirus pandemic, and in addressing systemic inequality that has come to the forefront in the dialogue around racial justice.

“We are grateful to IBM for its leadership in technology and business ethics and for its support of research to form ethical foundations for emerging technologies,” Burish said. “The convening power of our organizations will allow us to bring together leading scholars and industry leaders to truly champion responsible technology development as a force for good on a global scale.”

“AI has tremendous potential to make our world smarter, healthier and more prosperous, but the technology raises ethical issues that are broader and more complex than those of past transformative technologies,” said John E. Kelly III, IBM’s executive vice president. “Ethical considerations are at the heart of how IBM brings technology into the world, and we are proud to partner with Notre Dame to create the Tech Ethics Lab and elevate the role that ethics will play in the global dialogue.”

The Tech Ethics Lab will foster scholarly dialogue through an extensive affiliated scholars program, in which Notre Dame faculty members will collaborate with academics from other institutions and thought leaders from across the industry on technology-related ethics questions. The Tech Ethics Lab will provide a “convening sandbox” for affiliated scholars and industry leaders to explore and evaluate ethical frameworks and ideas.

“Through this partnership, we hope to develop research-based standards and practices to ensure ethical impacts of new technologies are considered throughout the entire development process,” said Mark McKenna, the John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law at Notre Dame and founding director of ND-TEC. “Rather than following the ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach sometimes used in developing new technologies, we hope to provide resources that allow developers and industry to create better, more responsible technologies that positively benefit society.”

Originally published at