What does it mean to embed ethics in data science? An integrative approach based on the microethics and virtues

AI and Society 36:939–953 (2021)
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In the past few years, scholars have been questioning whether the current approach in data ethics based on the higher level case studies and general principles is effective. In particular, some have been complaining that such an approach to ethics is difficult to be applied and to be taught in the context of data science. In response to these concerns, there have been discussions about how ethics should be “embedded” in the practice of data science, in the sense of showing how ethical issues emerge in small technical choices made by data scientists in their day-to-day activities, and how such an approach can be used to teach data ethics. However, a precise description of how such proposals have to be theoretically conceived and could be operationalized has been lacking. In this article, we propose a full-fledged characterization of ‘embedding’ ethics, and how this can be applied especially to the problem of teaching data science ethics. Using the emerging model of ‘microethics’, we propose a way of teaching daily responsibility in digital activities that is connected to the higher level ethical challenges discussed in digital/data ethics. We ground this microethical approach into a virtue theory framework, by stressing that the goal of a microethics is to foster the cultivation of moral virtues. After delineating this approach of embedding ethics in theoretical detail, this article discusses a concrete example of how such a ‘micro-virtue ethics’ approach could be practically taught to data science students.



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Nicomachean Ethics.H. Aristotle & Rackham - 2019 - New York: Hackett Publishing Company. Edited by Michael Pakaluk.
Intelligent Virtue.Julia Annas - 2011 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

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