Episode 4

What would a more just future look like?

Our society is more unequal than ever, as the top 1% control over 44% of the world’s wealth while 689 million people are living on less than $1.90 per day. In this episode, we asked our guests what the future of fairness, justice, and equality should look like, and how their research can help to bring about a fairer society. Alexa Hagerty and Natalie Jones shared how injustice can be thought of as an existential risk to humanity, while Esra Ozyurek introduced us to the importance of understanding that different people have different needs, making equality insufficient to bring about justice. We cover topics ranging from distributive justice, the virtues and vices of empathy, and the role AI will play in shaping equality in the years to come. 

This episode was produced by Nick Saffell, James Dolan and Naomi Clements-Brod. Annie Thwaite and Charlotte Zemmel provide crucial research and production support for Series 2.

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[00.00]- Introductions

[02.07]- what do we mean by fair when it comes to societies?

[03.28]- fairness as contributions

[05:00]- Justice requiring a plurality of understandings of peoples’ wants and needs

[05:58]- deficit model of justice

[06:45]- the difference between fairness, justice, and equality

[07:53]- justice is the most powerful out of the three concepts

[08:45]- The downside of empathy

[10:18]- being empathetic can encode a problematic power dynamic

[12:50]- who gets to feel compassionate is unequal in political dialogues

[13:13]- cognitive empathy and emotional empathy distinction

[13:50]- Time for recap 1: summary so far

[15:00]- the deficit model in more detail

[15:54]- example of medical needs explaining the difference between justice, fairness, and equality

[17:35]- cognitive empathy recap and explanation

[18: 15]- inequality and existential risk

[19:34]- existential risks can be localised to particular civilizations e.g. the threat of climate change and colonization

[20:21]- how to link global injustice and different voices to existential risk

[20:44]- participatory futures intro

[21:21]-global justice causing existential risk

[23:22]- we are all in the same boat but on different decks.

[24:24]- COVID-19 vaccine distributions and justice 

[25:13]- Time for recap 2: summary so far

[26:49]- participatory futures explanation

[28:05]- AI can impact inequality and injustice

[28:59]- algorithmic red lining

[30:11]- AI displacing workers of certain skill sets

[31:13]- AI and the platform economy

[32:37]- AI perpetuates inequalities, multiplies inequalities, and creates new inequalities

[33:29]- facial recognition, skin colour, and questions of whether it would be just to implement facial recognition tech across societies

[35:20]- AI having liberatory potential

[36:43]- the importance of the underlying structure within which AI is used

[37:57]- the materiality of technologies. What resources we would need to have ‘liberatory AI’

[40:19]- AI serves as a mirror for society. Reproduces structure of inequalities

[42:02]- liberatory AI requires a libertory future in general

[45:24]- looking forward to the future

[46:55]-concluding summary

[48:54]-end of the episode

Guest Bios:

Alexa Hagerty @anthroptimist is an anthropologist and Science, Technology, and Society scholar with a research background in human rights, violence, and mass atrocity. She is a Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, and an Associate Fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. Her research investigates the societal impacts of AI with a focus on responsible innovation, impacted communities, and human rights.

Natalie Jones @nataliejon_es is a Legal Scholar and Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. She works on how global injustice and inequality can potentially contribute to existential risk, with a particular interest in climate change. Specifically, she investigates who is involved in global decision-making on the world’s most pressing issues. Her current research program focuses on indigenous peoples’ participation in global governance.

Esra Ozyurek @esragozyurek is an Anthropologist and the Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths and Shared Values. She is also the director of Cambridge Interfaith Project. Her research seeks to understand the tension between politics and religion in Turkey and in Europe. She is currently working on a project that looks at how Muslim-background Germans adopt the memory of the holocaust as proof of their commitment to liberal democracy and empathic humanity.  Esra’s overall research agenda explores the tension between the universalism and particularism of globally appealing religious and post-religious belief and value systems, by studying them ethnographically as they travel in and out of their assumed natural habitats.

About the Podcast

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Mind Over Chatter
Welcome to Mind Over Chatter, the Cambridge University Podcast! One series at a time, we break down complex issues into simple questions.

About your hosts

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Naomi Clements-Brod

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James Dolan