Moral Models: Crucial decisions in the age of computer simulation

Monday February 14, 2022 at 4:00 PM CDT


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Dr. Eric Winsberg, Professor of Philosophy at University of South Florida, is a widely recognized expert on scientific models, including the role of social and ethical values in the modelling process. In a 22-minute interview, Dr. Winsberg introduces scientific modelling by exploring its use in the COVID-19 pandemic, underscoring the social and ethical significance of using models to inform public decisions under uncertainty. Far from being unique to the pandemic, scientific models are increasingly being used to inform a range of high-impact decisions, from climate policy to health resource allocation. Contrary to simplistic slogans like ‘follow the science’, scientific modelling requires making value judgments: social and ethical decisions about what we should pursue and avoid as a society. This gives models moral significance, which is only heightened by the potential for models to be used in political decision-making in ways that conflict with democratic values. Building awareness of the social significance of modelling, and increasing public involvement in the process, is needed to preserve our standard of democracy. To ensure that political decisions are not only informed by the best available science, but are also made by the people.