Many recent mainstream media articles and popular books have raised alarms over antisocial algorithmic behavior, especially regarding machine learning and artificial intelligence. The concerns include leaks of sensitive personal data by predictive models, algorithmic discrimination as a side effect of machine learning, and inscrutable decisions made by complex models. While standard and legitimate responses to these phenomena include calls for stronger and better laws and regulations, researchers in machine learning, statistics, and related areas are also working on designing better-behaved algorithms. An explosion of recent research in areas such as differential privacy, algorithmic fairness, and algorithmic game theory is forging a new science of socially aware algorithm design. Kearns will survey these developments and attempt to place them in a broader societal context. This talk is based on the book The Ethical Algorithm, co-authored with Aaron Roth (Oxford University Press).

Michael Kearns holds the National Center Chair in the Computer and Information Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has been a professor since 2002. He has secondary appointments in the university's Economics Department and in the departments of Statistics and Operations, Information and Decisions (OID) at the Wharton School. Since June 2020, Kearns has also had a role at Amazon as part of its Amazon Scholars program, focusing on algorithmic fairness, privacy, machine learning, and related topics within Amazon Web Services. As of August 2018, he is affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute as an external faculty member. Kearns has worked extensively in quantitative and algorithmic trading on Wall Street (including at Lehman Brothers, Bank of America, SAC Capital, and Morgan Stanley). He often serves as an adviser to technology companies and venture capital firms. He is also involved in the seed-stage fund Founder Collective and occasionally invests in early-stage technology start-ups. Kearns is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Alan Turing Institute and of the Market Surveillance Advisory Group of FINRA. He also occasionally serves as an expert witness or consultant on technology-related legal and regulatory cases. Kearns is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Association for Computing Machinery, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, and the Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory.

Theoretically Speaking is a lecture series highlighting exciting advances in theoretical computer science for a broad general audience. Events are free and open to the public. No special background is assumed. The lecture will be held via Zoom webinar. Registration is required to receive the webinar link. Please use the Q&A feature to ask questions. This lecture will be livestreamed and will be viewable thereafter on this page and on our YouTube channel.

If you require accommodation for communication, please contact our access coordinator at simonsevents [at] with as much advance notice as possible.

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