In a shift that is roiling typically cocooned computer scientists, some researchers — uneasy in part about the role of technology in the 2016 election — are urging colleagues to determine and mitigate the societal impact of their peer-reviewed work before it’s published. The big picture: The push — meant to shake computer scientists out of their labs and into the public sphere — comes as academics and scientists are suffering the same loss of popular faith as other major institutions.

What’s going on: By sensibility, computer science researchers prefer to leave it to philosophers and policymakers to interpret the societal repercussions of their work. At most, their papers cite a few potential positive impacts of the findings — and avoid mentioning the negatives altogether.

But now, they should be more active to renew public faith, said Jack Clark, strategy and communications director at OpenAI. “We need to regain that trust by showing we’re conscious of the impact of what we do,” he tells Axios.

Researchers whose oppose greater oversight say it’s not possible to guess whether their work will be repurposed for ill, or to prevent it from being misused. But the proposal’s 12 co-authors say the need to try harder is palpable.

There is “a serious and embarrassing intellectual lapse” between researchers’ positive outlook of their own work and reality, they wrote. Clark says the reluctance to engage with the ethical repercussions of research is an “abdicating of responsibility that is frankly shocking.” Read more from…

thumbnail courtesy of