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Margarita Boenig-Liptsin

Research Associate
University of California, Berkeley
Dignity at Risk: Discovering the Human in Algorithmic Risk Scores
01 September 2021 -
30 June 2022
History, philosophy and sociology of science
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Sorbonne Université - Paris IAS Chair on "Major Changes"

Margarita (Margo) Boenig-Liptsin is a Research Associate in the Division of Computing, Data Science and Society at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to the Fellowship at the Paris IAS, she was the Director of the Human Contexts and Ethics Program in the Division and Lecturer in the History Department. She teaches about the relationship between technology, power, democracy, and ethics with a foundation in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) to students in both technical and social science/humanities fields. At Berkeley, she leads a team that develops the Human Contexts and Ethics (HCE) component of the data science educational program. This work includes translating social science theory and methods for students of all backgrounds, building connections between engineering and social sciences, bringing together faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates at Berkeley into a community of scholars focused on issues of technology and society, and connecting the work of HCE to the San Francisco Bay Area's communities and needs. Margarita Boenig-Liptsin is trained in the field of Science, Technology and Society and holds a PhD in History of Science (Harvard University) and in Philosophy (Université Paris-Sorbonne). Her research examines transformations to human identity and citizenship in relation to information technologies across time and cultures.

Research interests 

Social and political aspects of digital technologies and computing, Identity, subjectivity, and selfhood, Ethics of technology, Comparative cultures of innovation, Sociotechnical imaginaries

Dignity at Risk: Discovering the Human in Algorithmic Risk Scores

Risk scores, statistical likelihood that an individual will show a certain behavior in the future, are a particularly powerful and popular algorithmic instrument for delivering insights directly into decision-making processes of diverse domains. By turning risk assessment onto the individual human as a standard technical operation, autonomous and intelligent systems challenge the specialness of the human encapsulated in the concept of human dignity. This project investigates the tension between risk scores and a dignified life and the reassertion of the concept of human dignity in law (such as the General Data Protection Regulation). In doing so, it does not simply critique technology or unmask its threat of some a priori idea of the human. Rather, the co-production of the idea of human dignity with data technologies through the 20th c. and in relation to the present rise of autonomous and intelligent systems is a way to reveal what it means to be human in a world of ubiquitous data and algorithms. Building on this understanding, the project pursues how this tension is worked out in practice: in public debate about risk scores, in the activity of organizations advocating for human rights around digital technologies, and in the discussions and technical solutions in-development by computing professionals. The project seeks to offer a working way-forward, towards a conception of the human-technology relationship that is supportive of individual and collective flourishing.

Key publications

Boenig-Liptsin, M. and J. Benjamin Hurlbut, “Technologies of Transcendence and the Singularity University,” in Hurlbut J., Tirosh-Samuelson H. (eds), Perfecting Human Futures. Springer VS, 2016, p. 239-267. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-11044-4_12

Boenig-Liptsin, M. « AI and Robotics for the City: Imagining and Transforming Social Infrastructure in San Francisco, Yokohama, and Lviv », in Field Actions Science Reports, Special Issue 17, 2017, p. 16-21.

Boenig-Liptsin, M., Making Citizens of the Information Age: A Comparative Study of the First Computer Literacy Programs for Children in the United States, France, and the Soviet Union, 1970-1990. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. 2015.

26337
2021-2022
Contemporary period (1789-…)
World or no region