PEPTalk – The problem of digital predictability On prediction, predictability and manipulation

Predictability is central to the digital society: it enables companies to send us the right advertisements and make us buy the things we really, predictably, want. This form of predictability is impossible without structural, detailed personal surveillance, and the line between this form of predictability and manipulability remains vague. But we also have to and want to act predictably in intersubjective relations. How we communicate must be predictable in fundamental respects, otherwise we could not understand or interpret other people’s behavior. And yet: as individuals we want to remain free in our actions, have the self-understanding to be free in this sense. ‘You’re so predictable’ is not a compliment. In this PEPT panel we discuss how prediction and predictability are constitutive for our social life, and yet limit and threaten this social life and individual freedom, particularly when using digital technologies.

The speakers:

Valerie Steeves is a Full Professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa. She is the principal investigator of The eQuality Project, a seven-year research and education initiative funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The project focuses on understanding how algorithms sort young people in a variety of contexts.

Daniel Susser is an Assistant Professor in the College of Information Sciences & Technology, a research associate and core faculty member in the Rock Ethics Institute, and an affiliate faculty member in the Philosophy Department at Penn State University. His research aims to highlight normative issues in the design, development and use of digital technologies, and to clarify conceptual issues that stand in the way of adressing them through law and other forms of governance.

Beate Roessler is Professor of Ethics and chair of the departement of philosophy at the University of Amsterdam; she has published widely on issues of privacy, autonomy and manipulation.