FedEx Institute of Technology kicks-off Technology Serving Humanity Series

Sept. 24, 2021 — The Fed Ex Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis has launched a new speaker series, free and open to the public, focused on the broader impacts of technology on individuals and communities. The Technology Serving Humanity series will explore the social, political, philosophical and humanistic aspects of technology and technological change. The goal is to help our regional community understand and navigate the challenges and opportunities arising from the rapid development of technological innovations. Leading scholars in the humanities, fine arts and communication, and the social sciences have been invited to the University of Memphis to present a monthly public talk as part of the series, during the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters.

Dr. Deborah Tollefsen, professor of Philosophy at the University of Memphis, is directing the series.  “I am very excited to be a part of this initiative. This speaker series provides the Memphis community with an opportunity to explore the many ethical, political, social and philosophical issues that technology raises. This year’s speakers will focus on topics such as the portrayal of race in the media, fake news, autonomy and privacy, and the relationship between science and religion, among other topics.”

The schedule includes:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 7 | Dr. Kathleen Thelen, MIT – “Platform Power”
  • Tuesday, Sept. 14 | Dr. Moya Bailey, Northwestern University and current MLK Visiting Professor at MIT – “Can we have an ethical internet?”
  • Tuesday, Oct. 5 | Dr. Michael Lynch, University of Connecticut – “Social Media and Bald Face Lies”
  • Friday, Nov. 12 | Dr. Clinton Castro, Florida International University – Miami – “Egalitarian Machine Learning”
  • Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022 | Dr. Christian List, LMU Munich, visiting professor at London School of Economics and a Fellow of the British Academy – “Group Agency and Artificial Intelligence” – ZOOM
  • Friday, Mar. 18, 2022 | Dr. Andrew Ferguson, American University Washington College of Law  – “Surveillance and the Tyrant Test: How to Respond to the Thread of Big Data Policing”
  • Friday, Mar. 25, 2022 | Dr. Elaine Ecklund, Rice University – “Understanding Interactions Between Religious and Scientific Communities to Increase Diversity in Science”
  • Friday, Apr. 8, 2022 | Dr. Craig Watkins, University of Texas – Austin and current MLK Visiting Professor at MIT – “Designing Artificial Intelligence for Racial Justice” 

Speaker Profiles:

  • Dr. Kathleen Thelen is a political economist, an endowed professor at MIT, and the former president of the flagship political science association in the US, APSA (American Political Science Association). Her recent work is directly on recent changes in the political-economy resulting from new technologies, especially the platform-economy, the rise of IP, changes in labor, etc. Her work has rather important and direct implications for anyone thinking about what these changes mean for rich democracies.
  • Dr. Moya Bailey is associate professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. She is a scholar of critical race, feminist and disability studies. Her work focuses on marginalized groups’ use of digital media to promote social justice as acts of self-affirmation and health promotion. She is interested in how race, gender and sexuality are represented in media and medicine.
  • Dr. Michael Lynch is a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut. He is the director of the Humanities Institute and director of the New England Humanities Consortium. His work concerns truth, democracy, public discourse and the ethics of technology.
  • Dr. Clinton Castro is associate professor of Philosophy and director of the certificate in Ethics, Artificial Intelligence & Big Data at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. His primary areas of study are information ethics, fair machine learning and epistemology.
  • Dr. Christian List is professor of Philosophy and Decision Theory at LMU Munich and co-director of the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy. He is also a visiting professor in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and a Fellow of the British Academy. He works at the intersection of philosophy, economics and political science, with a particular focus on individual and collective decision-making and the nature of intentional agency.
  • Dr. Andrew Ferguson is a professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law. He teaches and writes in the area of criminal procedure, evidence and criminal justice technologies. He is a national expert on predictive policing, big data surveillance, juries and the Fourth Amendment.
  • Dr. Elaine Ecklund is the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences, professor of Sociology at Rice University, and is the director of the Religion and Public Life Program. Ecklund's work includes years of study on the interplay between religion and science, religion among scientists, religious understandings of science and religion among scientists in international contexts.
  • Dr. S. Craig Watkins is the incoming Ernest A. Sharpe Centennial Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Watkins is the founding director of the Institute for Media Innovation, a new boutique hub for research and design located in the Moody College of Communication, and he is also the director of UT's Good Systems Racial Justice Research Focus Area (RFA). He is an internationally recognized expert in media and the author of six books exploring young people's engagement with media and technology.

Talks will take place at the FedEx Institute of Technology, or via ZOOM where indicated. For more information on the FedEx Institute of Technology or to register for a talk, visit https://www.memphis.edu/fedex/events/techhumanity.php. For more information on this speaker series, contact Dr. Deborah Tollefsen at dtollfsn@memphis.edu.