Technology for Social Good? AI, Human Rights, and Harm Reduction with Dr. Jay Aronson


Tuesday, December 7, 2021, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Virtual Event (Registration Required)

The volume of information available to human rights practitioners has grown steadily since the globalization of Internet access and the widespread adoption of smartphones across geographies, cultures, and socioeconomic classes. This vast material landscape creates an unprecedented visual record of the experiences of a significant percentage of humanity. When properly collected and analyzed, this material can help human rights analysts, fact-finders, and researchers reconstruct war crimes, human rights violations, and terrorist acts taking place in locations that offer limited or no physical access. At the same time, practitioners and organizations have been confronted with new challenges in dealing with the collection of massive amounts of data from a distance. This situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis as travel has become restricted and researchers, analysts, and fact-finders must rely on online digital information to investigate and validate claims of human rights abuse. In this talk, Dr. Aronson will describe two case studies of how he and his colleagues have confronted these challenges with partners from across the human rights domain. He will pay particular attention to ethical approach that is taken in doing their work.

This event is part of our Towards Life 3.0: Ethics and Technology in the 21st Century is a talk series organized and facilitated by Dr. Mathias Risse, Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs, and Philosophy. Drawing inspiration from the title of Max Tegmark’s book, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, the series draws upon a range of scholars, technology leaders, and public interest technologists to address the ethical aspects of the long-term impact of artificial intelligence on society and human life.


  • Jay Aronson | Founder and Director, Center for Human Rights Science at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Mathias Risse (Moderator) | Faculty Director, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy; Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs and Philosophy  

Jay Aronson is the founder and director of the Center for Human Rights Science at Carnegie Mellon University. He is also Professor of Science, Technology, and Society in the History Department. Aronson’s research and teaching examine the interactions of science, technology, law, media, and human rights in a variety of contexts. His current project focuses on the documentation and analysis of police-involved fatalities and deaths in custody in the United States. This work is being done through collaborations with the Pennsylvania Prison Society and Dr. Roger A. Mitchell, the Chief Medical Examiner of Washington, DC. In addition, he maintains an active interest in the use of digital evidence (especially video) in human rights investigations. In this context, he primarily facilitates partnerships between computer scientists and human rights practitioners to develop better tools and methods for acquiring, authenticating, analyzing, and archiving human rights media. Previously, Aronson spent nearly a decade examining the ethical, political, and social dimensions of post-conflict and post-disaster identification of the missing and disappeared in collaboration with a team of anthropologists, bioethicists, and forensic scientists he assembled. This work built on his doctoral dissertation, a study of the development of forensic DNA profiling within the American criminal justice system. His recent book, Who Owns the Dead? The Science and Politics of Death at Ground Zero (Harvard University Press, 2016), which analyzes the recovery, identification, and memorialization of the victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, is a culmination of this effort. Aronson has also been involved in a variety of projects with colleagues from statistics, political science, and conflict monitoring to improve the quality of civilian casualty recording and estimation in times of conflict. Aronson received his Ph.D. in the History of Science and Technology from the University of Minnesota and was both a pre- and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. His work is funded by generous grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the Oak Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations.

Virtual Event Details
This event will be livestreamed on YouTube Live. Attendees registered for this event (link below) will receive a link for the livestream 1 hour before the event where you can participate in the live chat and ask questions during the event.

Registration Closed