September 25, 2019

Lilly Endowment grant to help Purdue address the intersections of ethics and technology

IU, Purdue to coordinate on goals to create curriculum, programming                    

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – An initiative to create a model program focusing on professional ethics at the intersection of the liberal arts and technological innovation was announced Wednesday (Sept. 25) by Purdue University with support from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Purdue has received at $491,043 planning grant from Lilly Endowment to support Leading Ethically in the Age of AI and Big Data, an initiative to bring together national experts in academia, business, government and other fields to help foster character and ethical values in their students as they learn the science and technology relating to digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence and Big Data management.

The work will be undertaken in coordination with Indiana University, which also has received funding from Lilly Endowment to develop its own initiative.

“All sectors of society are concerned about professional ethics in the context of artificial intelligence and data science,” said David Reingold, the Justin S. Morrill Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of sociology at Purdue, who will help lead the initiative. “While there are many questions, there is consensus that leaders need both an understanding of the ethical implications and the possibilities of AI and data management. We at Purdue see the potential for incredible impact in creating a model pedagogy focused on developing moral character among leaders in business and technology as well as those who do and will lead in our civic life. This planning grant will allow us to begin to formulate much-needed standards for professional ethics and to develop a blueprint for professional ethics curricula here at Purdue and, eventually, beyond.”

 “It is imperative that students today be prepared to responsibly address the ethical implications of the ever-expanding digital technologies that will be so much a part of their lives and future careers,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education. “Character development has been a long-standing interest of Lilly Endowment, and we are pleased that Purdue and IU are collaborating on developing curricula and programs for their students that will instill ethical values while teaching relevant scientific and technological principles.”

Convened by Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts and overseen by a steering committee from across the university, the initiative will bring together national experts from the fields of academia, business and government to address the question: “What virtues should be incorporated into our technological world?” Experts will explore ways to provide innovative and effective curricula to Purdue students, ensuring that they deal in both deep and broad ways with ethical issues related to AI and data management. Among the issues to be explored: AI: Confronting Bias, Lack of Nuance and Liability; Data Management: Security and Privacy; Who Will Regulate the Management of AI, Big Data and Technology?; and Interacting with the Physical Manifestation of AI in the Future of Work and Leisure.

At IU, a $348,980 planning grant from Lilly Endowment will support Developing Character for a Digital World, an initiative that will bring together faculty and outside experts to develop an integrated curriculum that prepares faculty and students to confront current and future ethical challenges of our increasingly digital world. The initiative will be led by a steering committee of IU faculty from a cross-section of disciplines, including information technology, law, medicine, business, philanthropy and humanities.

“Digital technologies – from artificial intelligence to genetic engineering – present new challenges to society,” said Fred H. Cate, IU vice president for research. “This planning grant will provide critical support for IU to collaborate with Purdue to build curricula and programs that better prepare students to address these challenges. We are deeply grateful to Lilly Endowment for its leadership in this critical area.”

Reingold said, “We believe now is the time to be a leader in developing this educational ethical framework to help future leaders address the implications of technological innovation and its impact on people and societies. We are grateful for the support of Lilly Endowment and to work with our colleagues at Indiana University on these vital questions.” 

Media contact: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, jsbush@purdue.edu

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