History & Theory

Machine Generated Culpability

History & Theory
11 Feb, 2016

Machine Generated Culpability


Read the Revisited post of this event.

Original Post

What happens when an algorithm is capable of identifying security targets (e.g. for a drone strike or "cyber operation") with greater accuracy than human analysts? Does it matter if a human analyst or expert cannot articulate the reasons why the target was chosen? Does it matter what the operational purpose of the targeting is? This talk will raises these issues in the context of cybersecurity and national security enforcement, where automated decision-making and autonomous operations may be necessary for effective threat-incident prevention. The goal is to provoke a way to think about the design and use of predictive inferences that looks past traditional benchmarking metrics, towards socio-technical conceptions such as cognitive opacity and human agency that should drive the extent to which we use machine to generate "culpability" within the bounds of the law.

Ahmed Ghappour is an acclaimed law professor at UC Hastings, whose research focuses on up and coming technologies and national security, with stress on the role of cyberspace as a battleground. He directs the Liberty, Security, and Technology Clinic wherein he and his students litigate constitutional issues in espionage, counterterrorism, and computer hacking cases.

Ghappour has litigated numerous high profile cases, most recently representing whistleblower Chelsea Manning, Ross Ulbricht (alleged mastermind of the Silk Road), and journalist Barrett Brown (alleged spokesperson for hacktivist collective “Anonymous”). In USA v Moalin, Ghappour lodged the first challenge to NSA collection of telephony metadata in the context of a criminal case. Ghappour has also represented Guantanamo Bay detainees and challenged the US Extraordinary Rendition Program. He is a member of the National Security Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

In a former life, Ghappour was a diagnostics and system verification engineer at Silicon Graphics, where he wrote programs to discover vulnerabilities in high performance computer systems.

The History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series brings to campus leading humanities scholars working on issues of media transition and technological emergence. The series promotes new, interdisciplinary approaches to questions about the uses, meanings, causes, and effects of rapid or dramatic shifts in techno-infrastructure, information management, and forms of mediated expression. Presented by the Berkeley Center for New Media, these events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit:

Previous Next