Article by Laura Schelenz and Ahmed Hamdy, International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW) at Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen.

DIVERSITY is an integral part of our daily lives. We are diverse in our behavior, looks, cultural and social backgrounds, beliefs, religious affiliations, political opinions, and more. While diversity can be beneficial to human interaction, it can also be irritating and cause anxiety among humans. This is attributed to the fact that diversity implies different norms, cultures, and knowledge paradigms. This dilemma of diversity requires a cautious treatment of diversity in technological applications.

The main aim of WeNet is to provide a diversity-aware, machine-mediated paradigm for social interactions. This raises various questions:

  • What understanding of diversity do we rely on to build the WeNet technology?
  • How can we guarantee that this new diversity-aware technology is non- discriminatory and ethical?

In our deliverable 9.1, we are concerned with the ethical side and the notion of diversity in the WeNet project. We shed light on diversity as a normative idea to ensure an inclusive diversity-aware technology.

What is the scope of diversity in Wenet?

In WeNet, we focus in several pilots on the university settings in which students are diversely represented and social interaction is based on cultural, ethnic, gender, religions and ability differences but also diversity in academic and leisure activities, disciplines, interests, career hopes and expectations, as well as lifestyles.

How do we understand diversity in Wenet?

DIVERSITY is seen as challenging in various fields. Also in WeNet, the operationalization of the concept is seen as ambivalent. In WeNet, we focus on the positive side of diversity but also recognize that diversity has to be aligned to benefit users. WeNet sees diversity as an opportunity and a tool to improve social interaction among people. This perception implies that diversity can be used to achieve a “good” outcome, for instance increased productivity or well-being of students. Diversity-aware technology can also highlight non-discrimination. This aspect touches on the intrinsic value of diversity, where diversity can be considered a value standing on its own and important for human autonomy and dignity. When modelling diversity, both aspects have to be considered carefully.

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