Upcoming Events:

There are currently no upcoming events advertised here; check back next term for details of future events.

Past Events:

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar: Looking into the future, what more can mathematicians do?
Tuesday 27th November, 4:30pm – MR4, CMS
Being aware of the ethical issues that you as a mathematician may face is an extremely important step. But this is only the first in a sequence of potential steps. You can take this further, by starting to tell other mathematicians you work with or interact with. You can try and get involved with decision-making processes, by taking a seat at tables of power and authority. And you could even work towards identifying the unethical behaviour of other mathematicians completely unrelated to you, and call out their harmful actions to the community and to the public. This is fairly new and uncharted territory for mathematicians, and they're exactly the sorts of activities we shy away from. But now is the time to step up and take responsibility, because if we don't do it, then no-one else will.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar: Psychology 101: How to survive as a mathematician at work
Tuesday 20th November, 4:30pm – MR4, CMS
All mathematicians will, eventually, form some part of the workforce. The abstract nature of mathematics may lead us to believe that our role is "special", and that we won't need to worry about the usual workplace interactions, issues, conflicts and dangers that may arise in other professions. This is simply not true. We face the same issues, and need to know how to deal with them. Our focused and dedicated nature means that we may easily overlook instances of others trying to exploit or manipulate us at work, resulting in harm to ourselves, and our work becoming harmful to wider society. We need to know how to identify such people and situations, and to protect ourselves against them.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar: Understanding the behaviour of the mathematical community
Tuesday 13th November, 4:30pm – MR4, CMS
Just like every other academic field, mathematicians form their own community, with their own conventions, common beliefs, and schools of thought. We hand our teachings down through the generations, and this process goes all the way back to Euclid. But the ways of thinking we employ when doing mathematics in an abstract research setting may not serve us well in an industrial setting. It is important to be aware that not all the actions that make us good at mathematics will necessarily lead to us producing good solutions to industrial or social problems. In fact, some of our ways of viewing and approaching problems will hold us back when working outside academia.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar: Regulation, accountability, and the law
Tuesday 6th November, 4:30pm – MR4, CMS
The work of mathematicians in industry is now very close to its tangible applications; we produce output that is extremely quick and easy to use. Just look at machine-learned algorithms that compute credit scores. Now that we sit so close to the applications, we need to consider what sort of responsibility we have. There are things we are, and aren't, legally allowed to do. And there are consequences we might face if we fall foul of the law. Moreover, given that our work is often cutting-edge, we must self-regulate to prevent the types of harm that legislators and others have yet to realise is even possible.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar: Fairness and impartiality in algorithms and AI
Tuesday 30th October, 4:30pm – MR4, CMS
Algorithms run the world, and mathematicians are designing them. Algorithms decide what people read, what they buy, and when then can get a loan. We often design these systems to remove human subjectivity from decision making processes and to make them impartial, as is being done with predictive policing algorithms and prison sentencing algorithms. But how impartial, or fair, can a system designed by humans ever be? Moreover, the internet and big data have given rise to massive new potential, from targeted political advertising as done by Cambridge Analytica, to AI technology such as deepfake videos and self-driving cars. Our "solutions" in these instances can bring about a whole new set of problems.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar: Cryptography, surveillance and privacy
Tuesday 23rd October, 4:30pm – MR4, CMS
Mathematicians have always played a central role in the making, and breaking, of cryptography. We also play a key role in developing surveillance tools, both for state actors and private organisations. Thus, we have several ways of enabling the infringement of the privacy of others. We can do so deliberately, by designing tools to break strong encryption, or indirectly, by creating systems and platforms which collect massive amounts of personal data of individuals. And we can do it accidentally, by being careless or sloppy in the way we store the data of others. In all of these cases, our work determines how much privacy people can have.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar: Financial mathematics and modelling
Tuesday 16th October, 4:30pm – MR4, CMS
We all know about examples of mathematicians misbehaving in finance, and even being jailed as a result: Tom Hayes and Ke Xu are two examples. But more subtle are the modelling tools mathematicians produce. Mathematical modelling is ubiquitous in understanding the way the world works, from finance to physics to climate patterns. Understanding how to develop and use a model, as well as its limitations, and the way it interacts with the world, is indispensable in preventing it from causing harm. Unfortunately, as we saw in the financial crash of 2007, such models are sometimes poorly understood, with devastating consequences.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar: An introduction to ethics in mathematics and why it is important
Tuesday 9th October, 4:30pm – MR4, CMS
Mathematicians sit at the heart of technological advancement and industrial progress. Mathematics is a universal tool. It can be used for good, and it can be used for harm. To begin, we look at where harmful situations may arise, and what exactly we as mathematicians are doing to contribute to that harm. Though this harm may not (necessarily) come from intentional malice, there are many situations, and people, who can influence and manipulate us into carrying out harmful acts as mathematicians. It is important to be able to recognise and react to these scenarios, as we cannot always rely on external forces such as management to guide what we do.

Edward Snowden speaking
Wednesday 2nd May 2018, 4:15–5:45pm – MR2+MR3, CMS
CUEIMS hosted Edward Snowden via videolink. He gave a talk followed by a moderated question and answer session with active audience participation.

Dr Maurice Chiodo hosting
EiM 1: The first meeting on Ethics in Mathematics
Friday 20th - Saturday 21st April 2018, 9:00am-6:00pm - MR4, CMS
This conference, organised by Dr Maurice Chiodo with the assistance of Dr Piers Bursill-Hall, brings together a number of speakers and guests from Cambridge, the UK, and the rest of the world, to discuss various topics relating to ethics in mathematics.
A live stream of this event was available via our Youtube channel.
For more details, visit http://www.ethics.maths.cam.ac.uk/EiM1.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Pub discussion/Seminar 9: Winning with mathematics
Thursday 15th March 2018, 8:00pm - Pickerel Inn
Mathematics is frequently used in competitive environments, to help people optimise their situation by finding the best tactical position to take. This is often very technical work, taking in to account all sorts of real-world factors to find the "winning" position. So how do we go about identifying all these factors, how do we weigh them all up, and what does it even mean to "win"? We can't solve a problem if we don't have an understanding of what we are solving and why we are solving it.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Pub discussion/Seminar 10: Mathematicians being leaders
Thursday 8th March 2018, 8:00pm – Castle Inn
The notions of "leadership" and "mathematics" are seldom mentioned together in conversation. Yet there are mathematicians who choose to be in, or inadvertently find themselves in, positions of management and leadership. These scenarios can arise in both in academia and in industry. But is it even possible for a mathematician to lead effectively? How do we reconcile our training in axiomatised mathematics with the interpersonal dynamics and social considerations that we must deal with as leaders? There is much more to leadership than bean-counting and number-crunching.

Prof Bonnie Shulman (Bates College) speaking
Thursday 1st March 2018, 5:00pm – MR4, CMS
Bonnie Shulman’s focus is in Mathematical Physics but she takes a strong interest in philosophy of science and mathematics. Throughout her academic career she has devoted attention to ethical issues that arise in mathematics alongside her mathematics research, which includes Mathematical Biology and Game Theory. Publications she has authored include “Is There Enough Poison Gas to Kill the City?: The Teaching of Ethics in Mathematics Classes” and "Using Original Sources to Teach Mathematics in Social Context".

Prof Joanna Bryson (Bath/Princeton) speaking
Monday 12th February 2018, 5:00pm – MR4, CMS
Professor Bryson’s first and third degrees were in Psychology, while her 2nd and 4th were in Artificial Intelligence, so she approaches AI for the purpose of understanding human behaviour. Joanna has worked in AI ethics since 1996, and helped author the UK research councils’ Principles of Robotics in 2010. Just in the last two months she’s consulted to The Red Cross on autonomous weapons, Chatham House on the impact of AI on the nuclear threat, and she’s currently advising the British Parliament, European Parliament, and the OECD regarding the regulation of AI.
She'll be discussing her experiences working in AI policy with politicians and NGOs. She has said that she is willing to show and discuss some of the same slides and talks she's given in some of those meetings, as well as describing her experience of getting the Principles of Robotics taken up by government, industry and citizens.

Dr Maurice Chiodo and William Binney presenting
Seminar 8: Standing on the shoulders of giants
Thursday 8th February 2018, 5:00pm – MR4, CMS
Our understanding of mathematics comes from building on that of those who came before us; we are taught and mentored by them. We admire their work, and by extension we admire them as people. So how well do these mathematicians prepare us for the real world, and how much more do we need to know? We work very hard to emulate them, but we must be careful not to do so absolutely or without question.
The seminar will end with an open discussion with William Binney. William Binney is a cryptomathematician, and former employee and whistleblower of the NSA. He has spoken to CUEIMS previously on 'the Dangers of Success', and is with us again for a more informal discussion on the responsibilities of the working mathematician.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar 7: The impartiality of mathematics
Thursday 1st February 2018, 5:00pm – MR4, CMS
We hold mathematics in very high regard, as the beacon of absolute truth. Mathematics does not have any intrinsic prejudice or bias; it reveals truth. But how do we infer meaning from truth? Mathematicians design systems to remove human subjectivity from decision making processes, to make them more impartial. Does this mean that that we've removed all subjectivity from the process? We must realise the strengths, and weaknesses, of the systems we design.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar 6: Using mathematics to prevent harm
Thursday 25th January 2018, 5:00pm – MR4, CMS
Mathematics can be used to fight crime, avert destruction, and protect our society. But how far are we willing to go to do this, what are the drawbacks of such pursuits, and are they worth doing "at any cost"? In the pursuit of preventing harm and improving society, are we capable of doing even more harm in the process? There are instances when this is obvious, but also instances when it becomes somewhat opaque.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar 5: Mathematical precision
Tuesday 28th November 2017, 4:00pm – MR3, CMS
Mathematics is the most precise of all disciplines of study. We work on the basis of absolute precision, and of absolute truth. Once a problem has been "translated" into mathematics, we can manipulate it perfectly. But is this always a good thing? Is it always a good idea to be completely precise in everything we do? Are there any times when we should not be completely precise, but instead insert a degree of flexibility and humanity in what we say, in what we do, in how we act, and in how we think?

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar 4: Mathematicians trying to help
Tuesday 21st November 2017, 4:00pm – MR3, CMS
Mathematicians have taken it upon themselves at several points in history to work for the betterment of the human race. We have applied our specialised skills and abilities to solve problems of large social, economic and political importance. These highly complex solutions that we develop can have, and often have had, unintended consequences far beyond their original design. This often comes about because mathematicians fail to think ahead and ask the question "What am I making, and what else can it be used for?"

Sir David Spiegelhalter speaking on
In an age of 'fake news' and dodgy data, can we communicate statistical evidence impartially?
Wednesday 15th November 2017, 5:00pm – MR2, CMS
Event poster | Recording
Some say we live in a post-truth society abounding in fake news and alternative facts, with a declining trust in 'experts'. Certainly the media are full of political and scientific claims about risks, supposedly based on science or statistics, but that may be exaggerated or even simply untrue. I will look at the 'pipelines' through which scientific evidence is propagated through the media to the public, and suggest ways of improving both the trustworthiness of the evidence being communicated, and the ability of audiences to assess the quality and reliability of what they are being told.

Professor Jane Hutton speaking on
Codes of professional ethics for mathematicians: why?
Wednesday 8th November 2017, 5:30pm – MR2, CMS
Event poster | Recording
Why would a mathematician or statistician need any advice on ethics? Pure mathematics surely does not need an apology for pure enjoyment of abstract beauty, unsullied by everyday responsibilities.
The American Mathematical Society has a Policy Statement on Ethical Guidelines, first approved in January 1995. I suspect it is not often read. I will compare this with the International Statistical Institute Declaration on Professional Ethics of 1985 and 2010, and with medical codes of conduct.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar 3: Doing your job
Tuesday 31st October 2017, 4:00pm – MR3, CMS
Event poster
Do mathematicians have the right to voice moral objection? Is it even possible in our line of work? If so, how would we recognise when to object, how would we begin to go about it, and what sort of obstacles might we encounter when trying to do so? Those who seek our services have the ability to manipulate and coerce us, and defending against such coercion is a highly non-trivial task. Handling these situations requires real-life experience of them, which is hard (but not impossible) to teach.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar 2: The Allure of Mathematics
Tuesday 24th October 2017, 4:00pm – MR3, CMS
Event poster
What motivates us as mathematicians? Ours is one of the few professions where we enjoy our job so much that we’d probably do it for free. Our dedication and determination to solve mathematical problems is one of our greatest strengths, but can also be our undoing. Our ability for extreme focus is a double-edged sword; on the one hand it makes us excellent problem solvers, on the other hand it restricts our capacity to see the broader implications and consequences of our work.

Dr Maurice Chiodo presenting
Seminar 1: Keep Calm and Carry On
Tuesday 17th October 2017, 4:00pm – MR3, CMS
Event poster
To begin, we look at where such ethical issues may arise. What exactly might we do as mathematicians that causes harm? Who might we harm, and what might lead us to doing so? There are many situations, and people, who can influence and manipulate us into carrying out harmful acts as mathematicians. Realising where they might lie, and the sort of damage we might end up doing, is the first step in learning to combat them.

William Binney and Arjen Kamphuis speaking on
The Dangers of Success
Thursday 12th October 2017, 5:30pm – MR2, CMS
Event poster | Recording
William Binney is a cryptomathematician and former employee of the NSA. He designed the privacy-conscious surveillance program ThinThread. After more than 30 years with the agency, he resigned in protest and became a whistleblower, exposing the massive waste in expenditure, and privacy violations, in the NSA's new Trailblazer surveillance program. He is the recipient of numerous awards for social justice, including the Joe A. Callaway Award for Civic Courage, and the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence.
Arjen Kamphuis worked for IBM as an IT-architect in the 1990s. From 2002 to 2010 he advised several European countries on IT-strategy, opensource and open standards. Since 2006 he has helped secure the information systems of corporates, national government and NGOs. His work ranges from regular privacy-compliance and security-awareness up to countering espionage against companies, journalists and governments. To keep up technically Arjen is involved with the global hacker-scene and keeps in touch with (former) employees of spy agencies and other professionals who work at the front of critical infrastructure protection.

Thomas Drake speaking on
Beyond the Numbers as Eyewitness to History – 'Can you see what I see?'
Wednesday 10th May 2017, 3:00–4:30pm – MR3, CMS
Event poster
Thomas Drake was a senior executive of the NSA from 2001 to 2007. In that time, he made public disclosures about the surveillance program "Trailblazer" being developed by the NSA. This led to him being charged under the Espionage Act in the US. He has since received numerous awards, including the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling and the Sam Adams Award.
Thomas will speak about his time at the NSA, his interactions with other mathematicians there, and the the reasons why he chose to become a whistleblower.
This will be a videolink talk, with ample time for questions at the end.

Julian Assange speaking
Wednesday 26th April 2017, 4:15–5:45pm – MR2, CMS
CUEIMS hosted a discussion with Julian Assange via videolink. He spoke for 30 minutes, in which he recounted a biography and shared his perspectives on ethics in mathematics. His talk was followed by a moderated 45 minute question and answer sessions with active audience participation. The event was organised in its entirety by CUEIMS.

Prof. Ross Anderson speaking on
Keys Under Doormats: What's wrong with requiring government access to all data and communications?
Tuesday 7th March 2017, 5:30pm – MR2, CMS
Event poster | Recording
The FBI Director Jim Comey and the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions want government access to stored data, to communications and to the cryptographic keys used to protect them. In Britain, the Investigatory Powers Act, slipped through parliament in the post-Brexit chaos, gives the Home Secretary wide powers to order such access (though much of what the UK agencies want is on US servers). The revelations by Ed Snowden revealed significant abuses by the NSA and GCHQ of the access they already had, and Brexit makes it likely that EU governments and courts will be very wary of letting British firms process data on EU nationals. The scene is set for serious tussles over privacy between governments, the IT industry and others. How are we to make sense of all this?
We have been here before. In the "Crypto Wars" of the 1990s, the US government tried repeatedly to grab control of civilian uses of cryptography using export controls, the Clipper chip, and attempts to license the "trusted third parties" in electronic commerce. Some other governments, including Britain's, joined in. Eventually, industry saw them off, supported by academia, NGOs and the European Commission. Mathematicians suddenly found ourselves in the trenches in a battle that set freedom against state control, law enforcement against privacy, enterprise against regulation and countries against each other. We won Crypto War I in 1999 when the EU passed the Electronic Signatures Directive and Al Gore abandoned the fight to control crypto in the USA in the hope of getting elected President. What are our chances in Crypto War II?
Ross Anderson FRS FREng did maths as an undergraduate and a PhD in computing. He is Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge, and leads the Cambridge Cybercrime Centre, which collects and analyses data about online wickedness. He was one of the designers of the international standards for prepayment electricity metering and powerline communications; one of the inventors of the AES finalist encryption algorithm Serpent; a pioneer of peer-to-peer systems, hardware tamper-resistance and API security; and one of the founders of the discipline of security economics. He wrote the standard textbook "Security Engineering – A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems". He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Physics, and a winner of the Lovelace Medal – the UK's top award in computing.

Alex Chamolly presenting a workshop on
Active Listening
Monday 27th February 2017, 5:00pm – MR3, CMS
How good are you at persuading people? How easily can you be persuaded? Some little tricks in how you talk to people – and pay attention to what they say - can make all the difference. Join us for this seminar/workshop and learn about some effective listening techniques used by actual hostage negotiators, that can be used to convince people and lead them to open up to you, how to use them, and how to defend yourself against them.

Tom Daley speaking on
Tech for good
Monday 13th February 2017, 5:00pm – MR3, CMS
Tom works for Aptivate, a Cambridge based IT company developing solutions for NGOs. He will talk about his experiences working at a ethically minded organisation in the charitable sector.

Guy Lipman
Monday 6th February 2017, 5:00pm – MR3, CMS
Guy has worked as a quant (financial mathematician) for the past 16 years, in a range of organisations: accounting firms, the Treasury, a bank, and most recently two energy trading companies. He will be talking about some of the ways in which ethical questions have impacted his work (and are likely to impact the work of anyone working as a quant), and reflect on some of the things he tries to consider when making decisions.

Mustafa Warsi presenting a seminar
Monday 30th January 2017, 5:00pm – MR3, CMS
Mustafa is a Part III student here, and will be recapping some of the topics discussed last term, as well as discussing some of the decisions we might make in response to our ethical concerns.

Dr. Maurice Chiodo presenting a seminar series on
Ethics for the Working Mathematician
Thursday 13th October–Thursday 1st December 2016, 5:00pm
See this page for more details
As mathematicians we possess very particular talents, skills and training. We can do some very good things with these. We can also do some very bad things with these, in particular with the tools and techniques that we create. It is important to keep this in mind and to consider it when going out and working as a mathematician in a real-world setting. The universe extends far beyond the boundary of the pages we work on.
In our daily activities as working mathematicians we run the very real risk of harming ourselves, those around us, and more broadly the society we live in. This can occur under duress from others, through sheer social obliviousness, or as a result of our single-mindedness when it comes to problem solving. It can even occur at times when we are consciously trying to do good and be helpful.
It takes a degree of understanding and thought to guard against such eventualities. There is no deterministic algorithm for this; one must learn to act and respond more as a human, and not merely as a problem solving machine.

The purpose of these seminars is to equip mathematicians, as well as other technically-trained individuals, with some of the tools required to make ethical decisions and judgements in their line of work. First we need awareness: ethical issues in mathematics can be quite well-hidden from the average mathematician, so how do we identify them? Next we need motivation: now that we know our actions may have adverse effects, how do we weigh up whether to carry them out or not? Finally we need conviction: we may find ourselves under substantial pressure to act against our moral judgement, so how do we stand our ground and defend our decisions?
These seminars will be highly interactive, highly involved, and at times challenging. Through examples and activities we will learn how to develop awareness, motivation, and conviction. These tools will serve you well as you go out into society as a working mathematician.