- This event has passed.
CEPPA Talk – Lisa Herzog (University of Groningen)
September 23 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Title: Big Data and the Risk of Misguided Responsibilization
Abstract: The arrival of “big data” promises new degrees of precision in understanding human behavior. Could it also make it possible to draw a finer line between individual choices and circumstances that operate in the background? In a culture in which individual responsibility continues to be celebrated, this raises questions about new opportunities for institutional design with a stronger focus on individual responsibility. But what is it that can be drawn from big data? In this paper I argue that we should not expect a “god’s eye’s view” on choice and circumstances from big data. “Responsibility” is a social construct that depends on the logic of different social situations, as well as our epistemic access to certain counterfactuals (e.g. whether an agent “could have acted differently”). It is this epistemic dimension that changes with the arrival of big data. But while it might help overcome some epistemic barriers, it might also create new problems, e.g. because of polluted data. This is not just a theoretical problem; it is directly connected to questions about the regulation of the insurance industry, for which “big data” has been described as a “game changer.” I argue that this development forces us to directly confront questions about mutualist versus solidaristic forms of insurance, and more generally speaking about how much weight to ascribe to individual responsibility, given all we know about unequal background circumstances.