AI, Ethics, and Geoethics (CS 5970)

Module 5: Geoethics and AI case study 1

Geoethics and AI case studies

All of our Geoethics and AI case studies are inspired by the Geoethics case studies in Scientific Integrity and Ethics with Applications to the Geosciences, edited by L.C. Gundersen.  

Case study 1

As part of an interdisciplinary conservation project, you have created an AI model that predicts where an endangered bird roosts.  You are working closely with ecology and biology colleagues.  They have confirmed most of your predicted roost locations from their fieldwork studies.  Your model predicts a roost inside a wildlife refuge that is a known location for this type of bird but they had not been previously observed in that specific location.  Since the new location is only a 2 hour drive away, your colleagues invite you on a road trip to verify the roost.

Along the drive, your colleagues check in on some of the known roost locations and show you what to look for.  Watching the endangered birds, you grow more and more eager to see if your AI model discovered a new location.  You have always been excited by using your AI to help with conservation and sustainability and you really hope your model found a brand new roost.

When you arrive, you start the hike to the new location.  As you get close, you and your colleagues discover that the part of the refuge that you need to access is closed for rehabilitation.    

Golden-cheeked Warbler

Golden-cheeked Warbler

Photo from All About Birds

Discussion questions for case study 1

  1. What do you do when you reach the part of the closed refuge?  Why do you choose this action?  How does your excitement to confirm the result of the AI prediction affect your choice?
  2. Is your choice the same if your colleagues tell you that the wildlife in the refuge is likely to be affected by human presence?
  3. What do you do if your colleagues decide to push on anyway?  Do you speak up?  Why or why not?