Feature Stories Campus Events All Stories

Ehsan ’13 to Give Public Lecture on the Algorithmic Imprint Washington and Lee’s Philosophy Department will host a talk by Upol Ehsan ’13 on Monday, March 13 from 6-7:30 p.m. in Northen Auditorium, Leyburn Library.

Upol-Ehsan-4x6-1-e1678304194696-346x350 Ehsan ’13 to Give Public Lecture on the Algorithmic Imprint

Washington and Lee’s Philosophy Department will host a talk Upol Ehsan ’13 on Monday, March 13 from 6-7:30 p.m. The event, which will be held in Northen Auditorium on the ground floor of Leyburn Library, is free and open to the public.

Ehsan graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Washington & Lee University with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and engineering followed by a master’s degree in computer science from Georgia Tech. He will introduce the novel concept of the “Algorithmic Imprint,” which illustrates how algorithmic harms can persist in its afterlife. Through a case study, Ehsan will demonstrate how merely destroying the algorithm does not undo or mitigate its harms. The case study details events around a global controversy called the “2020 Ofqual algorithmic grading scandal,” where an algorithm graded the GCE, one of the most popular exams in the world. His talk will focus on events in Bangladesh, one of the 160 countries where GCE exams are administered. The focus on the Global South will show how algorithms made in the Global North disproportionately impact stakeholders in the Global South.

“The Algorithmic Imprint carries practical implications for both policy makers and technologists because it changes how we think about algorithmic impact and governance,” Ehsan said. “Even though algorithms are made of ‘soft’-ware, they can leave ‘hard’ and persistent imprints at the infrastructural, social and individual levels. There is no undo button for an algorithmic deployment.”

The talk will include an interactive Q&A discussion with the audience. Ehsan will also be the keynote speaker for the induction ceremony for W&L’s chapter of Phi Sigma Tau, the oldest philosophy honor society in the United States.

Ehsan is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech and an affiliate at the Data & Society Research Institute. Combining his expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and background in philosophy, his work in Explainable AI (XAI) aims to foster a future where anyone, regardless of their background, can use AI-powered technology with dignity.

Focusing on how our values shape the use and abuse of technology, his work has pioneered the area of Human-centered Explainable AI (a sub-field of XAI). Actively publishing in top-tier research venues, his work has received multiple awards and has been covered in major media outlets. He frequently shares information about Explainable and Responsible AI on his Twitter account. Outside his research, he is an advisor for Aalor Asha, an educational institute he started for underprivileged children subjected to child labor. He is also a social entrepreneur and co-founder of DeshLabs, a social innovation lab focused on fostering grassroots innovations in emerging markets.