Notre Dame Develops Technology Ethics Center

Author: Clara Saint-Denis

Notre Dame Develops Technology Ethics CenterPhoto by Adolfo Mora

The new Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC) was created with the goal of conducting multi- and inter-disciplinary research addressing the ethical and policy questions related to the impact of technology on humanity.

It will reside on the second floor of O’Shaughnessy Hall and will connect faculty from across the university’s colleges and from all disciplines, including humanities, social sciences and policy.

The center remains in its early stages. There are currently 16 faculty members affiliated with the project but this number will continue to grow as the center expands its outreach.

“We are in the process of actively growing and structuring the Center,” Mark McKenna, law professor and director of ND-TEC, said. ND-TEC remains in the midst of a search for another leading authority, formally trained in ethics, to serve as a potential co-director to the initiative. The center remains dedicated to fostering an environment

of diverse disciplinary backgrounds and perspectives.
McKenna described the center’s objectives as three-fold. It will first

establish itself as a research entity that will conduct research on the emerging ethical concerns that ongoing technological developments have created. Those affiliated with ND-TEC will hone in on these issues via their diverse academic backgrounds.

Its second goal is to partner with tech companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations to develop and apply its research. ND-TEC is currently working on partnering with the city of South Bend on projects relating to the development of wireless networks.

The center’s third mission is developing a curriculum that will engage Notre Dame students at all levels on technology ethics issues. It hopes to help form critical thinkers on technology and its implications. Its faculty is exploring the idea of creating a possible major or minor associated with ND-TEC.

“This center has a unique flavor in that it is not simply an outgrowth of the computer science department, but rather a union of all disciplines that creates an ethical framework to explore the issues associated with emerging technology,” McKenna said.

ND-TEC hosted its kick-off event on Oct. 10 in Washington D.C., featuring a series of panel discussions on deepfakes (a technique for human image synthesis) led by leading academic, industry and policy experts.

It plans to host its second event on campus in the spring semester to popularize itself among the student body.