UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In today's digital age, artificial intelligence and big data are helping people navigate the world in new ways. While many researchers are using these new tools to innovate and advance different disciplines, a few, like Fred Fonseca, are approaching these advancements from a different perspective.
“There’s a new field called data ethics,” said Fonseca, associate professor in Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology and 2019-2020 Faculty Fellow in Penn State’s Rock Ethics Institute. “We are collecting data and using it in many different ways. We need to start thinking more about how we’re using it and what we’re doing with it.”
By approaching emerging technology with a philosophical perspective, Fonseca can explore the ethical dilemmas surrounding how we gather, manage and use information. He explained that with the rise of big data, for example, many scientists and analysts are foregoing formulating hypotheses in favor of allowing data to make inferences on particular problems.
"Normally, in science, theory drives observations. Our theoretical understanding guides both what we choose to observe and how we choose to observe it,” Fonseca explained. “Now, with so much data available, science's classical picture of theory-building is under threat of being inverted, with data being suggested as the source of theories in what is being called data-driven science.”
Fonseca shared these thoughts in his paper, "Cyber-Human Systems of Thought and Understanding," which was published in the April 2019 issue of the Journal of the Association of Information Sciences and Technology. Fonseca co-authored the paper with Michael Marcinowski, College of Liberal Arts, Bath Spa University, United Kingdom; and Clodoveu Davis, Computer Science Department, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.