Research ethics

Given the connection between research and technology, how can we reshape the practice and culture of fundamental research to better build towards a world where we all can flourish?

Technology is a major driver of social change today. We need look no further than the impacts of AI on our communities, work, and the risks it poses for our future. Radically new technologies are enabled only by advances in fundamental research, especially the mathematical sciences.

This question guides our daily work. It is difficult to anticipate the impacts of fundamental research, which can be used in many different ways for many different purposes. Nonetheless, we believe careful attention to social impacts leads to better science. This begins with our project selection, which seeks to contextualise all our research, no matter how fundamental, with concrete application in the day-to-day problems of society, such as infectious disease mitigation.

We foster public discussion about science and society, and the role scientists can and must play in advancing a future of human dignity, care, and justice. This includes hosting presentations on technology ethics in our Colloquium, high level events on science and society with leading thinkers such as Lord Rees, and the Finding the Right Abstractions workshop series, which seeks to bring a formal mathematical lens to problems of AI interpretability and safety.

A major initiative is the Singapore Conference on AI for Global Good, a partnership with the Government of Singapore that brings together leaders in research, industry, and government from around the world to build community around the identifying the critical questions of AI that will unlock AI’s development and deployment for the global good. The 12 SCAI Questions, written by the delegates of the inaugural conference, articulates priorities from governance, risk management, and safety evaluation, to scientific discovery, education, and mechanisms for deployment for global good.

At the same time, we cultivate a reflective practice that sees Topos as an opportunity for pioneering a new culture of science. Our research examines both general strategies for ethical alignment of scientific work, as well as specific tools to pursue concrete goals such as transparency and accountability in research.

Building on this work, we have designed our first staff research ethicist position, which will seeks to bring integrate expertise from history, sociology, and anthropology of technology directly into our research team. More details can be found in our job posting.