AI: Practice, People, Places

I believe that a  technical field such as AI can contribute a great deal to our understanding of human existence, but only once it develops a much more flexible and reflexive relation to its own language and to the experience of research and life that this language organizes. 

Phil Agre, Towards a critical technical practice: Lessons in trying to reform AI (1988)

There has been a rush to institute ‘ethics owners’ and ‘ethics entrepreneurs’, cadres of people tasked with ‘doing’ ethics in engineering, data, and software development organisations in Silicon Valley (Moss and Metcalf, 2020; Ali et al., 2023).

However, their influence remains limited because their roles are poorly defined, and their influence in the design of technologies are often curtailed. Similarly, across other sectors and industries, there is enthusiasm among working professionals, leaders, and policymakers to address ‘AI Ethics’ and ‘ethical AI’ in their sectors. But how exactly do they translate high-level lofty ethics principles into practice?

Three projects relate to how practitioners bring responsibility and care to their business, policy, and industrial practice with AI:

Comm CTP, a new online community of critical technical practice to support engineers, designers, and managers;

AI in the Street, a six-month pilot about how and if the rollout of connected and automated mobility technologies meets the needs of disabled people in Cambridgeshire;

AI-driven decision-making in connected cities, a collaboration with the Departments of Engineering and Land Economy.

Join our quarterly meetings of CommCTP, a new Community of Practice for people thinking about and working on design and technology across different sectors. You can read more about CommCTP here and sign up for our next meeting on Feb 26th, 4pm UK here.


  • Agre, P.E (1997) Toward a critical technical practice: Lessons learned in trying to reform AI, in G. Bowker, L. Star, B. Turner, and L. Gasser, (Eds.) Bridging the Great Divide: Social Science, Technical Systems, and Cooperative Work, Mahwah, NJ, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. pp. 131–157.
  • Ali S. P., Christin A., Smart A., and Katila R. (2023). Walking the Walk of AI Ethics: Organizational Challenges and the Individualization of Risk among Ethics Entrepreneurs. In Proceedings of the 2023 ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (FAccT ’23). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 217–226.
  • Moss, E., and Metcalf, J. (2020) Ethics Owners: A New Model of Organizational Responsibility in Data-Driven Technology Companies (New York: Data & Society Research Institute, 2020),


Maya Indira Ganesh

Maya Indira Ganesh

Associate Director (Research Partnerships) | Senior Research Fellow

Stephen Cave

Stephen Cave