Technology’s Moral Debt in the COVID-19 Era

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How Borrowing Against Public Trust Cost Us Public Health

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In 2020 a global crisis, embodied in a tiny snippet of RNA, arrived on humanity’s doorstep. It required urgent, evidence-driven, well-coordinated, and cooperative social action on an unprecedented scale. It also required the decisive application of our best science and technology for pandemic control. Many of the most scientifically and technically advanced countries were not up to the task. Why?

Professor Shannon Vallor, Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence, University of Edinburgh discusses how we have relied for too long on technological solutions as temporary patches for deep structural problems in organisations and society, building up a ‘moral debt’ that came due at exactly the wrong time in 2020. She also explores how we can begin to restore the public trust in scientific and technical expertise, and more importantly, in social leadership, that we will need to rise to the continued challenge of COVID-19, and to new dangers and opportunities that lie ahead.