Welcome to the Ethical Math Blog!

Welcome to the blog for the ethicalmath.com website!  For our first entry, we thought we would share our hopes for the website, and for the blog.

In April, 2018, we attended the first Ethics in Mathematics conference at Cambridge University. This conference was inspired by recent events and scandals involving the use and processing of data.  While professions in data science, statistics, computer science, and machine learning have regular discussions of ethics, mathematicians do not. However, mathematicians are often employed to do work in these areas.  As an example, consider the work mathematicians do at the United States National Security Agency (the largest employer of mathematicians in the US). While their work may involve solving problems one might identify with “pure math’ (such as number theory), it is destined to be used in computer algorithms with data.

Inspired by the discussions at this conference, we decided to start gathering a community dedicated to promoting ethics in mathematics, but in the United States.  As in the UK, there are many of us thinking about this, but we are all scattered. We hope this website can be a space where we can all find each other, start talking, and make plans.  

We are also interested in sharing contributions to the blog from you!  If you are interested in writing something, please contact us. If you aren’t sure what you could write about, we can talk with you and help you think through it.

The world isn’t divided into “good and ethical people” and “bad and unethical people.”  The same is true of the mathematical community. In addition, ethical questions are often grey and involve dilemmas that depend on our individual values, and this is not the kind of reasoning mathematicians are trained for.  But as the world becomes more interconnected and data-based, mathematicians need to develop an ethical awareness to identify and guide our decisions in our work and the future work of our students. Coming together and talking is a first step.  We hope you will join us.

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