Bendert Zevenbergen: Research Fellowship in Princeton

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17 October, 2016

This academic year, I will be on a research fellowship at the Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) at Princeton University, exchanging Oxford ‘dreaming spires’ for something that actually looks and feels very similar. The CITP is a multidisciplinary research institute that works closely with the computer science department and the influential Woodrow Wilson School of Government. Researchers here pursue collaborative projects with technologists and social scientists (including lawyers, philosophers, etc.) on topics such as machine learning, Internet measurement, networked privacy, social impacts of technology, information security, and artificial intelligence (AI).

The director-on-leave is Prof. Ed Felten, who is currently advising President Obama about technology policy. His latest contribution is a report on the future of artificial intelligence, which is partly based on the work of the AI Now conference report (pdf). The accompanying strategic plan for research and development of AI to implement ambitious but crucial recommendations such as “Private and public institutions are encouraged to examine whether and how they can responsibly leverage AI and machine learning in ways that will benefit society” and “Agencies should draw on appropriate technical expertise at the senior level when setting regulatory policy for AI-enabled products.”

The Acting Director Prof. Nick Feamster works on high performance network operations, architecture, and protocol design. His work is technical in nature, but also reaches out to policy makers to provide an evidence base for regulatory decisions. See for example the Interconnection Measurement Project that can inform Internet governance policy decisions on resource management with regards to the capacity of networks. Related work investigates the use of censorship technologies and how encrypted Internet traffic is managed and subsequently targeted by regimes that may feel threatened by such communications.

Many of the topics that are researched here have significance for technology and policy, but also raise pressing, deep, and difficult ethical questions on the social impact of this work. On the one hand I will be working with the researchers to formulate research designs through the formulation of ethical and social functional requirements. On the other hand, I will be working with researchers between Boston and Washington DC to contribute to an understanding of the “social-systems” analyses to, as visiting professor Brett Frischmann states it, “develop much better tools for identifying and evaluating our humanity and evolving relationships with technology and environment.”

Want to learn more about Benderts work in Oxford or his new research in Princeton? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Bendert Zevenbergen

Academic Liaison at Princeton University

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