Mariarosaria Taddeo

Dstl Ethics Fellow Mariarosaria Taddeo’s work sits at the crossroads of digital ethics, philosophy of information, and war ethics

Fact file

  • Senior Research Fellow & Deputy Director at Digital Ethics Lab, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford
  • 2010 recipient of the Simon Award for Outstanding Research in Computing and Philosophy
  • 2013 recipient of the World Technology Award for Ethics
  • Named among the top 100 women working on ethics of AI in the world (ORBIT)

Describe your work in a nutshell?

I am a philosopher working on digital ethics. Over the past 15 years, my work has addressed the conceptual and ethical issues linked to the information revolution, focusing in particular on the use of digital technologies for security and defence purposes. My work sits at the crossroad with work on digital ethics (ethics of data, algorithm, and practices), philosophy of information, and war ethics.

I believe that digital innovation leads to societal changes, and that it’s crucial to shape digital innovation with values that will foster the development of tolerant, just, open, pluralistic, and democratic societies. This vision drives my work.

A recent highlight?

Research-wise, a recent highlight is a paper published in Nature Machine Intelligence, co-authored with Tom McCutcheon – Dstl – and Luciano Floridi – University of Oxford,  describing the risks of trusting AI for national security and defence purposes and offering suggestions for a less risky approach. It builds on my previous work  on trust and on the use of AI for national defence purpose. This body of work has been presented and discussed at the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence and informed CESP’s report on AI and Cybersecurity.

In terms of social impact, a few weeks ago, I was appointed a member of the Exploratory Team on Operational Ethics, established under the auspices of the Human Factors and Medicine (HFM) panel of the NATO Science and Technology Organisation. I am delighted to be able to contribute to the international debate on operational ethics in the context of national defence and am already enjoying exchanges with the other members of the group.

What’s been the most challenging part of your career so far?

I’ve been working in the fields of philosophy of information and digital ethics since my masters. Sometimes, in those early days, it was hard to convince senior colleagues how crucial it was to focus on the conceptual and ethical changes prompted by the information revolution. Thinking about this now, it seems inconceivable.

And the most rewarding?

Many moments. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship, which I was awarded with a 100 out of 100 evaluation to work on the ethics of information warfare in 2010, and receiving the World Technology Award in 2014 for my work in this area. More recently, I was honoured to be named among the top 100 women working on ethics of AI in the world (ORBIT) and to be listed by Inspirying50 as one of the top 50 most inspiring Italian women working on digital technologies globally.

However, more than anything, the brainstorming sessions with the members of the Digital Ethical Lab of the OII, University of Oxford, and every paper that we work on together are among the most rewarding moments of my working life.

You’ve recently been appointed the Dstl Ethics Fellow at the Turing, what to do you hope to achieve in this role?

The fellowship is a great opportunity to help shape the debate on the ethical implications of using digital technologies for national security and defence. I hope to bring my own expertise and leverage on the vibrant Turing community to advance our understanding and participate in the public policy debate. This will ensure that ethical considerations are a core part of the discussions, and solutions, that our societies will develop and adopt when creating digital tools for national security and defence.

And finally, when not working what can you be found doing?

In the time of self-isolation, reading and listening to rock music…. But I really like horse-back riding - I can’t wait to get back to it!