Western establishes chair in ethics and technology after $1.5M alum donation | Administration


Western has established a chair in ethics and technology that will research how to ethically use AI, its impact on individuals, society and humanity in the age of artificial intelligence through a $3 million endowment.

The endowment contains a $1.5 million donation from class of 1990 alum Tim Duncanson and $1.5 million from Western University’s matching chair programs.

Duncanson told the Gazette in a statement the idea for this chair came after months of discussion with Western president Alan Shepard and former Arts and Humanities dean Michael Milde.

“As technology continued to evolve, we all agreed on the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to studying ethical approaches to both the development and implementation of these new technologies,” said Duncanson. “I felt Western was a natural place for this.”

While the position was announced in October, it will be filled through a joint appointment from the philosophy and computer science departments.

According to Jan Plug, acting dean of the Arts and Humanities, students in his faculty and the Faculty of Science at both the undergraduate and graduate level have shown significant interest in AI ethics. 

Plug said the new position will provide opportunities for an additional research complement in existing courses, such as Philosophy 1130: Big Ideas and Philosophy 2078F: Ethics for a Digital World. 

The new position “ensures we are extremely well prepared to respond to current questions and debates around the ethical implications of technology,” wrote Plug.

The creation of the chair position comes after Western appointed Mark Daley as its first-ever chief AI officer on a five-year term earlier this year.

Daley is looking forward to collaborating with the new chair, emphasizing their expertise across Western’s faculties.

“We’ve got a really strong philosophy department, we have really strong researchers in neuroscience, computer science and AI, and so, we can take that multidisciplinary lens to AI ethics.”


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