The Cambridge University Ethics in Mathematics Society exists to bring lectures and discussion to mathematics students at Cambridge University on issues around ethical questions and problems that working mathematicians may face as part of their professional lives. Cambridge mathematics graduates leave with a uniquely strong background in mathematics, which makes them highly employable in a range of industries as working mathematicians. But – as we have come to realise – mathematicians in the workplace, doing mathematics, may well have to deal with difficult and particular ethical decisions that derive from the practices of their mathematical work (quite apart from the ethical issues that all people may come to face in whatever walks of life).
We are not at all a discussion forum for philosophy, and we have had no philosophers give talks to the society.
We are also extremely aware that the ethical issues that working mathematicians may face will often come embedded in politics, or have subsequent political consequences. We have worked very hard to keep these two separate, feeling that the ethical issues mathematicians need to recognise and the tools needed to confront the unique ethical questions that arise from the real world practice of mathematics are separate from the political considerations that such ethical issues may engender. How one deals with such political considerations is left as an exercise for the reader because that goes well beyond the a-political remit that the Society has set for itself. This division is obviously artificial, but it allows ethical discussions to remain safe and independent of different larger political feelings many of the members will have.