John Havens Executive Director at IEEE Interview with Matt Bird at Humanity 2.0 | Traders Network Show – Vatican City

Contributed by: Show Editorial Team

John C. Havens, Executive Director at IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous & Intelligent Systems interview with with Matt Bird at Humanity 2.0 (Vatican City)


  • Ethically Aligned Designs book on ethics in technology was launched in 2016
  • You have to understand the end user values of who you’re talking to and really study each culture
  • The book has input from not just data scientists and engineers, but anthropologists, social scientists, & psychologists


INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: John C. Havens, Executive Director at IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous & Intelligent Systems with Matt Bird

Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 00:00    

Welcome back to the Traders Network Show coverage of Humanity 2.0 we’re broadcasting worldwide from the Vatican for and our affiliated partners. My next guest, John Havens is the executive director of IEEE.

John Havens – Executive Director, IEEE: 00:14    

Actually, it’s IEEE and I’m executive director of a program at the larger organization. The actual executive director of the whole organization is a wonderful guy named Steve Welby. Hi, Steve. I’m executive director of the smaller program called the IEEE global initiative on ethics of autonomous and intelligent systems. And IEEE is the world’s largest technological organization dedicated to the advancement of the benefits of technology for humanity.

Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 00:44    

That is a mouthful. And you know what the world needs some complex solutions. But the important thing is you got a book that just recently got released, Ethically Aligned Design. I like to talk a bit about that, but we’re here for the Humanity 2.0. It just kicked off. You saw the opening ceremony. Just like, we all did. What does this mean for you and why is this important?

John Havens – Executive Director, IEEE: 01:06    

Sure. Well, I’m delighted to be invited. It’s also gorgeous here at the Vatican so it’s an honor and quite humbling and I think the organization is doing a wonderful job of asking issues about how values and faith and ethics in terms of even what people don’t think about us. They walk through their day, how we make our decisions based on the deep values of who we are and their recognition that along with things like law and ethics, that people might understand formerly from things like principles that again, law or policy put out there. Most people live their lives by the laws that are sort of governed by aspects of either religion or the communities where they worship or hang out.

Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 01:48    

You know, they are doing a great job of bringing in thought leaders to help project that message. And you know, we’re seeing a big insurgence of P threes public private partnerships. And I think that we’re, this is a different form of that, um, bringing in private organizations to help project that sustainable message. And the impact message. You came out from New Jersey.

John Havens – Executive Director, IEEE: 02:08

I did all the way out here. Maplewood, Six County. Represent.

Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 02:11

You know, we are out from New York. In fact we see a lot of Westerners here. We had a chance to speak to the president of the university here and everything else and it’s amazing to see the Western support for the Eastern initiatives and the European initiatives. Do you see yourself participating long term with the Humanity 2.0?

John Havens – Executive Director, IEEE: 02:28    

Well, I’d be honored to, you know, and the sense of, especially you mentioned the intersection of the East and the West. We have a chapter in the book, called classical ethics in autonomous and intelligent systems and a lot of that focuses on things of Eastern traditions, Confucianism, Buddhism, the Shinto tradition. As well as Umbootoo ethics from the global South and Africa. And what’s great for me as a westerner coming from more Greek traditions, you know, I wouldn’t necessarily know, you come from a Greek tradition that’s formally, I just know of a sense of individualism versus a kind of communal wellbeing. And they both obviously have their merits and they’re both at a paradigm level. Sometimes the word bias has a negative context and we have to be very careful like with algorithms and things like racial bias, which is negative. The bias or just the perspectives where we come from in terms of our cultures. That’s why this organization is doing some fantastic work because you have to understand the end user values of who you’re talking to, especially in our case when you’re trying to build technology that won’t cause harm and will help. If you don’t know what those end values are, then you may be harming without even meaning to.

Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 03:37    

That’s amazing. You know, you’re getting into the AI aspect of things. So why don’t you tell us a bit about the book and how AI applies. A lot of it talks about the book a little bit.

John Havens – Executive Director, IEEE: 03:46   

Cool. Matt, you were very nice to ask about the book. It’s thank you. So in one sense it’s more than a book for us. We launched it originally in 2016 about a hundred global experts, not just data scientists and engineers, but anthropologists, social scientists, psychologists launched this book with eight chapters,  as a request for input. And it’s an academic oriented book, but it’s also very pragmatic. It’s got issues and recommendations and I bring this up because principals are fantastic. And our whole first chapter is about general principles, things like human rights, human flourishing, very much what we’re talking about here and data agency moving beyond this term of privacy and making sure that you and I, and everyone has a level playing field for how they exchange their data. But then we got 500 pages of feedback, a lot of which was awesome work.

John Havens – Executive Director, IEEE: 04:39   

Thank you. Wow. This feels kind of Western. So our, our tactic asset was as we went to, uh, the fantastic members now of our group who are from China and South Korea and Japan. Now we have people from India and Brazil and Africa. Any of those voices who, first and foremost they’re experts in these systems. But secondly, they can lend their voices to say, our perspective, our cultural values. You can’t talk about ethics without recognizing what those are. So core of now this third version, because we had a second version, you got even more feedback over a thousand people looked at it. We consider it, you know, obviously we’re proud of it, but a sort of seminal resource for the algorithmic age. We designed it so that it’s three years of work that all these experts did to save everyone else a ton of time. And that’s academics, people from industry and policy makers saying, look at this, look at these recommendations. You don’t have to agree with them. But it’s very hard sometimes to say, this is a recommendation after all this thought, now you want to give some people substantive recommendations to really do, to work, work with, because we need to work and be pragmatically moving forward. Now.

Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 05:51    

You know, one of the other guests is attending here. In fact, he sponsored, his name’s Frank Ricotta. He’s going to be on a little bit later. We’re interviewing him. We’re familiar with Frank. He’s been on our show before at Davos and recently signed a partnership with the International Trade Administration. His company’s the U S leader in blockchain actually. So people, there’s some speculation on who’s whose number one was itty bitty emerging growth company out of Denver, Colorado is number one in the world right now. And they just signed a partnership with the ITA. The reason why I bring this up is because the number one agenda on the ITA list on the F on the finance side is AI and FinTech. And I think you guys should get together, be interesting. It’s interesting chat you guys would have. But listen, we got to wrap up. How can people find this book? Where’s it at? Is there a website they people can go to.

John Havens – Executive Director, IEEE: 06:40

Oh, sure. And thank you for asking. Yeah. I believe that’s it. Or if you use the phrase ethically aligned design and use IEEE you can find it. And again, John havens, we’re always looking for people to join. Thank you. 

Matt Bird – Show Host, Traders Network Show: 06:56

Thank you, John. You’re watching the Traders Network Show. I’m Matt Bird. We’ll be right back with our next guest. You’re not going to miss this. 

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