Tina Peterson: “Abstracted power and responsibility”

In this interactive talk, Tina Peterson introduces a new concept of responsible technology.

Speaker: Tina Peterson (University of Texas, Austin, USA), Moderator: Carlo Ghezzi (Politecnico di Milano, Italy)
Speaker: Tina Peterson (University of Texas, Austin, USA), Moderator: Carlo Ghezzi (Politecnico di Milano, Italy)

February 21st 2023

  • 17:00 – 18:00 CET
  • This is an online-only event.
    See description for details.

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About the Event

February 21, 2023
5:00 – 6:00 PM
(17:00) CET


Technology often serves as a lever to extend and amplify our power. It is increasingly possible in the 21st century to make decisions that have profound impacts on people thousands of miles away from us. As it extends our reach geographically and culturally, this long arm of technology can also distance us perceptually from impacts of our decisions and make the consequences easier to ignore. We call the outcome of this phenomenon ‘abstracted power,’ and identify it as an important obstacle to overcome as we promote social responsibility in engineering education. Our work is with computer science students, but abstracted power could apply to any engineering field and indeed may find traction beyond those disciplinary boundaries. In this interactive talk I will introduce the concept of abstracted power and the highlights of a paper my colleagues Rodrigo Ferreira and Moshe Vardi and I recently published on the subject. Next I will describe how I have used this concept in my computer science ethics classes and share some students’ observations of this phenomenon in the ‘real world.’ I will then invite members of the audience to share their thoughts on this concept in the context of their own disciplines. Finally I will talk about ways to un-abstract power and make computer scientists and others feel a greater sense of personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions.


Here you can download the slides and presented paper:
Download the slides.
Download the presented paper.


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Abstracted power and responsibility
Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/neBUPbyNh-s