By Valerie Galarza |
October 12, 2023
People stand in front of chalkboard

UCF’s Center for Ethics wants students to be prepared when they face complicated ethical situations with emerging technologies like AI.

Students are learning to “Be Better” about ethical issues with the Be Better Club at the UCF Center for Ethics. The club is a discussion group founded by Associate Professor of Philosophy Jonathan Beever, who is also a founding director for the Center for Ethics, alongside Professor of Chemistry Stephen Kuebler.

The discussion group was formed in 2019 as part of an initiative from the newly-formed Center for Ethics to teach ethical literacy and apply it to research, teaching and partnerships. The club offers students and faculty the opportunity to engage in informal but formal conversation about ethical dilemmas.

Beever says that the discussions are important as it allows students and faculty to learn more about ethics and how to resolve certain dilemmas, which will help them in the classroom and in their careers.

“We could remind each other that there’s always an opportunity to be better, to cultivate ourselves in new ways. And if we stopped trying, that’s where we sort of slipped back,” Beever says.

The discussion group encourages students and faculty to think ethically on a range of topics such as health, information technologies, environmental impacts, and education, and recently, using AI as a collaborative tool. Talks this semester are themed on topics like “AI & Data Privacy,” “AI & Environments,” and “AI & Moral Character.” Before attending the discussion, attendees are asked to listen to podcasts featuring experts on the day’s topic to be better prepared for conversation.

It’s important to consider how ethical implications will help shape the future of emerging technology like AI and how we respond to it, Beever says. Having the discussion groups creates space for students and faculty to have conversations on the impact of technologies and how to resolve issues that may come with it.

Beever says that the discussions offer opportunities to “grow, support one another, and engage in the sorts of discussions that should distinguish University education.” The overall goal is to help build members ethics literacy and “to think critically and ethically through sustained practice and experience.”

Beever says that he’s grateful for the engagement from the members as he likes to “step back and let them talk it out.” This allows the members to speak amongst themselves and to learn from each other about different ways of handling ethical issues. Although each group meeting has a topic set for members to discuss, Beever says that participants offer suggestions and curate conversations. Past topics have included free speech, intellectual diversity, HB 233 and many others.

“Our discussions are a lot of fun, a chance to think big and broad about things that matter to us or should matter to us,” Beever says.

Students and faculty interested in attending the meetings can join the bi-weekly zoom meetings on the UCF Center for Ethics website.