When Technology Transforms Society: Considering the Societal and Ethical Impacts of Quantum Computing and AI


October 31 – November 1, 2019


Quantum computing and artificial intelligence are currently making significant technical progress, with commensurate interest from the public, media outlets, funding agencies, and corporate partners. Stakeholders frequently point to the potential of these technologies to “transform society,” but what does this mean, practically? Should researchers and stakeholders anticipate the social, political, and ethical consequences of our work and steer our research programs accordingly? Can we draw from scholarship in the social sciences and the humanities to inform an understanding of the distributional impacts of our programs? This workshop will explore these questions and develop collaborations across disciplines, institutions, and key stakeholders who may be able to help responsibly steer the evolution of these revolutionary technologies in ethical and socially beneficial ways.


Sign-Up and Travel Awards


  • If you are interested in attending and/or presenting, please contact quantum@uchicago.edu.
    • Participants will be notified on a rolling basis.
  • Travel Awards are available. Please apply HERE.




University of Chicago
Eckhardt Research Center (ERC)—Room 161
5640 South Ellis Ave, Chicago, IL 60637

Potential Sessions


The Evolution of Privacy: What happens when encryption, secrecy, and privacy are heavily disrupted?

  1. When have modes of secrecy and bastions of privacy been dramatically disrupted in the past?
  2. How does this kind of disruption impact geopolitics?
  3. What roles will QIS and AI play in thwarting or sustaining modes of privacy?
  4. How does this affect an individual’s privacy within a nation-state, and how does this channel into political movements and activist efforts?


Justice and Power Asymmetries: How are technological advances used to subjugate, oppress, or control groups of people?

  1. What cultural disruptions in the past have been caused by significant changes in technology and in computing technology?
  2. What are the common themes of these changes in terms of power asymmetries, an individual’s quality of life, and the concentration of wealth, knowledge, power?
  3. What has been, is, or will likely be the balance between the democratization of power/privilege and the accumulation of power/privilege in the context of technological disruption?
  4. How does a technocratic approach to governance drive policy-making?
  5. What are local community themes for technological colonialism — e.g., gentrification and loss of affordable housing; redlining and education?


Work, Labor, and the Value of the Individual: What value does society place on the individual as human labor continues to be replaced by machine labor?

  1. What happens when the speed of technologies and their evolution outpace retraining of humans in jobs and professions?
  2. In many societies, the worth of the individual — both externally to societies and internally to oneself — is tied to productivity. How will we (re)define individual worth within society?
  3. What does a future look like when the most complex of jobs are reordered and assumed by machines? What are the roles of humans?
  4. What are the policy mechanisms needed for societies to approach these futures peacefully? 


Organizing Committee


  • Daniel Bowring
  • Chihway Chang
  • Eamon Duede
  • Hoyt Long
  • Diana Morgan
  • Brian Nord
  • Jason St. John
  • Kate Timmerman


With support from the Kavli Foundation

In partnership with the Center for Data and Computing at the University of Chicago

Code of Conduct

Skip to toolbar