Coming from an academic background in law and economics, Chad became deeply interested in questions surrounding risky decision-making. Now as we enter an era of automation, where decision-making belongs to technology and algorithms on a scale like never before, Chad is part of the vital role philosophy plays in guiding tomorrow’s technological change.
“My PhD dissertation constructs ethical principles for risky decision-making. I never had the opportunity to explore it in any depth while studying law and economics. When 'ethics and risk' became a major research focus in the ANU School of Philosophy, I joined the project. My approach was to extend our existing ethical theory with conceptual tools more traditionally found in economics.”
For Chad, philosophy is an essential lens through which to view and understand our world.
“Think of a concept that you’ve heard about in science, law, economics, psychology, or elsewhere. Maybe it’s the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal law, or “species” in biology, or “welfare” in economics. Ask yourself, what does that concept really mean? Does it make sense? Could we come up with a better version of that concept? This kind of investigation is really what philosophy is about,” Chad says.
“Philosophy is relevant to just about everything we do. It’s necessary to really understand science, law, economics, and other disciplines. It finds assumptions and beliefs, questions them, interrogates them, and tries to devise better versions.”
Artificial intelligence is a rapidly advancing field that touches on topics from law and ethics, to science and design. What should an autonomous car do to avoid an accident? Can algorithms be relied upon to make crucial decisions? Can autonomous technology or its designers be held liable under law? Chad’s next step after ANU takes him to Stanford University in the United States, for a role as a postdoctoral researcher.
“I’ll be investigating the ethical dimensions of statistical and automated decision-making, particularly in applications of artificial intelligence.”
Looking back on his time at ANU, Chad recalls the small things fondly. The quintessential sound of raucous cockatoos on cool Canberra mornings, the world-class coffee, and morning teas on the School of Philosophy balcony, enjoying the brisk exchange of ideas with colleagues and students.
“It is a great way to exchange ideas and to meet visiting academics, and helped me to learn from luminaries in my field who I never thought I would have a chance to meet.”
He also recalls more substantial experiences along the way, including undertaking research fellowships at the University of Toronto and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and he hopes to pursue a path ahead in academia, enjoying the ideas and autonomy it offers.
For Chad though the fondest memory of his time at ANU is of the teaching.
“I really enjoy research and teaching. I’ve found the students at the ANU to be really committed and engaged. Often the main challenge was to get them to stop discussing their ideas! I also really enjoyed learning how to teach from Glen O’Grady and others at the Centre for Higher Education, Learning and Teaching.”