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CITP Luncheon Speaker Series: Joanna Bryson – Technology, Publics, and Public Goods Investment

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
12:30 pm


Sherrerd Hall, 3rd floor open space
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States + Google Map

Food and discussion begin at 12:30 pm. Open to current Princeton faculty, staff, and students. Open to members of the public by invitation only. Please contact Laura Cummings-Abdo at if you are interested in attending a particular lunch.

Contributing to the public good is, perhaps definitionally, a good thing. Why then do some people–given the opportunity–punish those who have contributed to their own (the punisher’s) good? The correlation in the expression of this behavior (known as anti-social punishment) to poor economies and low rule of law makes untangling the causality and mechanisms imperative. Here Bryson presents current models, results and hypotheses along the following lines:

• the cultural variation in this performance seems to be due to different proportions of populations taking up one of three strategies, demonstrating different social preferences.
• behavior within a sub-population may depend on in-group / out-group identity.
• willingness to extend in-group status to anonymous others may correlate to economic well being.
• different understandings of economic dynamics may alter the ability of groups to find mutually-beneficial strategies.

Bryson will present human data owing primarily to Herrmann, Thöni & Gächter (2008) with further models and analysis, due to the work of her own group as well as others, and framed within a context of social learning via Darwinian mechanisms. She will discuss the experiments involving technological interventions she hopes to perform or at least find funding for during the time of her sabbatical. She will also discuss how sociobiological frameworks allow us to approach question such as: if human sociality has a large implicit component, what impact does and will our changing socio-technological landscape have on human organization and cooperative behavior?


Joanna Bryson is a Reader (tenured Associate Professor) at the University of Bath, currently on sabbatical as a Visiting Fellow at Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP). She has broad academic interests in the structure and utility of intelligence, both natural and artificial. She has been publishing on AI ethics since 1998, and been engaged in AI policy in the UK since coauthoring the 2011 “EPSRC Principles of Robotics”. Her sabbatical project, “Public Goods and Artificial Intelligence”, is intended to include both basic research in human sociality and experiments in technological interventions. She holds degrees in Psychology from Chicago and Edinburgh, and in Artificial Intelligence from Edinburgh and MIT. At Bath she founded the Intelligent Systems research group (one of four in the Department of Computer Science). She also heads Artificial Models of Natural Intelligence, where she and her colleagues publish in biology, anthropology, ethics, cognitive science and systems AI.