Research areas

David Leslie is the Ethics Fellow within the public policy programme. His current research focuses on digital ethics, algorithmic accountability, and the social and ethical impacts of machine learning and data-driven innovations. In his wider research, David studies the moral and ethical implications of emerging technologies. In particular, he is keen to question how the biospherically and geohistorically ramifying scope of contemporary scientific innovation (in areas ranging from AI and synthetic biology to nanotechnology and geoengineering) is putting pressure on the conventional action-orienting categories and norms by which humans, at present, regulate their behaviour.

David was a 2017-2018 Mellon-Sawyer Fellow in Technology and the Humanities at Boston University, where he concentrated on the ethics and politics of emerging media and computationally based innovation as well as on issues of accountability, explainability, transparency, and stakeholder participation in the governance of machine learning research and innovation. He has also recently been appointed as a Fellow at MIT’s Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. He has previously taught at Princeton’s University Center for Human Values (UCHV), where he also participated in the UCHV's 2017-2018 research collaboration with Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy on "Technology Ethics, Political Philosophy and Human Values: Ethical Dilemmas in AI Governance."

Prior to teaching at Princeton, David held academic appointments at Yale’s programme in Ethics, Politics and Economics and at Harvard’s Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, where he received over a dozen teaching awards including the 2014 Stanley Hoffman Prize for Teaching Excellence. After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History from Cambridge University, he received his PhD from Yale. His recent paper, “Machine Intelligence and the Ethical Grammar of Computability,” which explores the relationship of Alan Turing’s monumental work on combinatorial logic to his later thoughts on AI, was published in Springer-Verlag’s Synthese Library Series in the Philosophy of Science in a 2016 volume entitled, Fundamental Issues of Artificial Intelligence.