SSC Virtual Seminar: Jason Millar, School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, University of Ottawa

Pandemic Contact-Tracing: Balancing Socio-Ethical Tensions in Desperate Times

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

12:30 – 1:30 pm

*Due to the limited capacity of the online-meeting platform, we have to adopt the first-come-first-serve principle. We will send the seminar link and password to registered participants.
Please RSVP to Rui Hou by Sunday, June 14.


The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a rapid and unprecedented global reaction, the many impacts of which we will not fully comprehend for decades. But in our immediate desire for a return to some sense of normalcy, many people are looking to mobile phone-based contact-tracing apps to help limit further spread of the disease. Some of these apps are being pitched simply as enhanced public health tools, others as tools of individual empowerment in a time of desperation and vulnerability. In this seminar Jason Millar will give an overview of some of the apps that have been used or proposed to date, and discuss some of the many, unstable, socio-ethical narratives and tensions that have emerged around them. Millar will also describe some governance approaches that could help mitigate potential harms associated with using COVID-19 contact-tracing apps.

About the speaker:

Jason Millar holds the Canada Research Chair in the Ethical Engineering of Robotics and AI, and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He researches the ethical engineering of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), with a focus on developing tools and methodologies engineers can use to integrate ethical thinking into their daily engineering workflow. Jason’s work concerns the ethical engineering of automated vehicles, artificial intelligence, healthcare robotics, social and military robotics. Jason has a degree in engineering physics, and worked for several years as an engineer before turning his full-time attention to issues in philosophy and applied ethics. He has authored book chapters, policy reports, and articles on the ethics and governance of robotics and AI. Jason recently co-authored a discussion paper as one of Canada’s contributions to the 2018 G7 meeting on AI in Montreal. He has provided expert testimony at the UN CCW and the Senate of Canada on the ethics of military robotics, and consults internationally on policy, and ethical engineering issues in emerging autonomous vehicle technology. His work is regularly featured in the media, including articles in publications such as WIRED and The Guardian, and interviews with the BBC, CBC and NPR. He recently authored a chapter titled Social Failure Modes in Technology and the Ethics of AI: An Engineering Perspective, for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI (OUP). He also authored a chapter on ethics settings for autonomous vehicles in Robot Ethics 2.0 (OUP), and co-authored a chapter on metaphors in technology governance for the Oxford Handbook on the Law and Regulation of Technology (OUP).

Everyone welcome!