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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Maths and tech specialists need Hippocratic oath, says academic | Mathematics - The Guardian

Exclusive: Hannah Fry says ethical pledge needed in tech fields that will shape future by Ian Sample, science editor of the Guardian.

Hannah Fry: ‘The future doesn’t just happen. We are building it all the time.’
Photo: Paul Wilkinson
Mathematicians, computer engineers and scientists in related fields should take a Hippocratic oath to protect the public from powerful new technologies under development in laboratories and tech firms, a leading researcher has said.

The ethical pledge would commit scientists to think deeply about the possible applications of their work and compel them to pursue only those that, at the least, do no harm to society.

Hannah Fry, an associate professor in the mathematics of cities at University College London, said an equivalent of the doctor’s oath was crucial given that mathematicians and computer engineers were building the tech that would shape society’s future.

“We need a Hippocratic oath in the same way it exists for medicine,” Fry said. “In medicine, you learn about ethics from day one. In mathematics, it’s a bolt-on at best. It has to be there from day one and at the forefront of your mind in every step you take.”...

The lectures, to be broadcast on BBC Four, will be only the fourth in nearly 200 years to focus on mathematics.

“One of the problems maths struggles with is that it’s invisible,” Fry said. We haven’t got explosions on our side. But despite being invisible, mathematics has a dramatic impact on our lives, and at this point in history that’s more pertinent than it’s ever been.”

Source: The Guardian