Rensselaer for Ethics in Science, Engineering, and Technology


Wednesday, February 5, 2:00 PM, Fischbach Seminar Room, Folsom Library (2nd floor)


  • Last meeting:
    • Individual versus collective action. How are gut reaction is “what can I do?” when it should be “what can we do?”
    • Avoiding nihilism about the geopolitical Leviathan of war and capitalism
    • How our education shaped our worldview and how we solve problems
    • The problems of the divide-and-conquer strategy of problem-solving. How it leaves out important underlying connections.
    • Things to do on campus (see #organizing in the Discord for updates)
  • This meeting:
    • The Internet of Things:
      • Practically every modern device communicates in some way to the manufacturer company and sends information about its user. The company can do almost anything it wants with this information.
    • Loss of privacy:
      • The emergence of surveillance capitalism with Google’s AdWords.
      • Companies joining in the surveillance bandwagon and selling user information to third parties or using it to tailor specific advertisements.
      • Is the trade-off between privacy and being shown relevant ads legitimate? Would we rather be shown no ads at all? If we have to have ads, would we rather they be tailored to us?
    • Predictive algorithms:
      • Along with using the information to tailor ads, companies use it to predict our behavior and maximize user engagements and, ergo, profits.
      • Algorithms are getting scarily good at predicting human behavior. This means we have lost not only present privacy but future privacy.

Articles for discussion

Further reading