Nikita Aggarwal, Research Associate, Digital Ethics Lab, Oxford Internet Institute and doctoral candidate, Faculty of Law, University of Oxford and Professor Luciano Floridi, Director, Digital Ethics Lab, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, discuss the importance of intercultural digital ethics.

Intercultural Digital Ethics is a sub-field of digital ethics research that examines the ethical issues due to digital technologies from different cultural and social perspectives. The Digital Ethics Lab (DELab) at the Oxford Internet Institute has recently been engaged in efforts to refresh and reignite the field of Intercultural Digital Ethics for the age of AI and ubiquitous computing, and to broaden the approach of digital ethics. In December 2019, DELab held the first Symposium on Intercultural Digital Ethics, at Exeter College, University of Oxford, organised by Nikita Aggarwal, Josh Cowls, Julia Slupska and Marie-Therese Png.  This month sees the publication of the Special Issue of Philosophy and Technology on Intercultural Digital Ethics guest-edited by Nikita Aggarwal (Luciano Floridi is the Editor in Chief of the journal).

The symposium and the special issue address a range of critical questions relevant to intercultural digital ethics. For example: why is a pluralistic ethical approach important in understanding the impact of digital technologies? How do digital technologies impact different cultural and social groups differently? How do these communities view issues in digital ethics such as privacy, consent, security and identity, differently? Can we design governance frameworks for digital technologies that are tailored to the ethical values of different cultures, whilst also harmonizing these frameworks at the international level? Do digital information technologies represent a new form of colonialism and exploitation?

In their contribution, Shakir Mohamed, William Isaac and Marie-Therese Png of Google DeepMind address the coloniality of AI, arguing that AI communities must embed ‘a decolonial critical approach within their technical practice’, thereby ‘centring (sic) vulnerable peoples who continue to bear the brunt of negative impacts of innovation and scientific progress’. Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal, from the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, confront the problematic racialisation of AI, warning that the prevalent ‘Whiteness of AI’ contributes to a ‘vicious cycle of social injustice’. Other important contributions to the special issue offer insights from religious and cultural perspectives— notably Islam, Ubuntu and Confucianism— that have received less visibility in the traditionally ‘Western’ discourse on digital ethics.

The Digital Ethics Lab will hold the Second Symposium on Intercultural Digital Ethics in Michaelmas (Fall), 2021 (date TBA). We warmly invite researchers working in intercultural digital ethics and cognate fields to submit an abstract by March 1st 2021.