BioMe: Existential Challenges and Ethical Imperatives of Biometric AI in Everyday Lifeworlds
Via the ever-growing role of biometrics within the lifeworld – machine-based measurement and statistical analysis of people's unique physical and behavioral characteristics – artificial intelligence (AI) is already here, at our fingertips. Beyond provoking immediate questions about privacy infringement and security, biometrics nails us to personality types, proclaims ‘risky individuals’, and discerns our desires, value and psychic health, thus evoking even larger existential and ethical questions about human dignity, social prejudice and transparency.
Building on and furthering principal investigator Amanda Lagerkvist’s previous accomplishments as a Wallenberg Academy Fellow, including her founding the international research field of existential media studies, this project’s central aim is to investigate the experiential range of encounters with these technologies with a focus on both possibilities as well as challenges and vulnerabilities, in order to scrutinize the pressing ethical imperatives they pose for networked humanity.
By intersecting expertise in media studies, philosophy, law and information systems, BioMe offers an urgently needed, internationally cutting-edge, state-of-the-art humanities approach to AI and how people live with biometrics – examining e.g. smart household assistants (voice recognition), pre-emptive policing (face recognition), health apps and touch screens (sensory data capture).
As an associated partner of Chalmers AI Research Centre we will exchange resources and ideas about how to procure truly beneficial and existentially sustainable AI in workshops on existential virtue ethics of care. Producing a new and topical body of knowledge for and with various stakeholders in society: engineers, NGO’s, policy makers, the business and art worlds, and the international research community, BioMe will answer the call from the EU to think about ethics proactively as part of the design process, but also normatively as part of a broader set of techno-moral virtues for good lives in our time.
The project is part of a national research programme, WASP-HS, which involves a total of SEK 660 million over ten years, initiated by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation and the Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation.
Studies and people
The project consists of five empirical studies and six people:
- Study 1: Cripping the Biometric Person. Principal investigator, Professor Amanda Lagerkvist.
- Study 2: Biometrics and the vulnerabilities of being seen. PhD Matilda Tudor.
- Study 3: Living with and against voice capture. PhD Jacek Smolicki.
- Study 4: BioMe-thical judgements: the risks, opportunities and human needs in biometric-based law enforcement. PhD Jenny Eriksson Lundström.
- Study 5: Twists of the smart body. Biohacking as existential practice. PhD Student Maria Rogg.
- Ethics advisor and consultant in our work on an existential virtue ethics of care. Professor Charles M. Ess.
Amanda Lagerkvist is Professor of Media and Communication Studies in the Department of Informatics and Media at Uppsala University and PI of the Hub. As Wallenberg Academy Fellow (2014-2018) she founded the field of existential media studies. Her current work explores the existential dimensions of media technologies through lived experiences of biometrics; intersections of datafication, disability and selfhood; and the ambivalent AI imaginary and its relationship to both futures and endings. In her monograph, Existential Media: A Media Theory of the Limit Situation (OUP, 2022) she introduces Karl Jaspers’ existential philosophy of limit situations for media theory.
Jenny Eriksson Lundström, is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Informatics and Media at Uppsala University, AI4Research Fellow (2024) and co-PI in the BioMe Project. She researches digitalization, innovation, and lived experiences of AI and digitalization, in particular for the individual decision maker. Eriksson Lundström is most recently published in Communications of the Association for Information Systems, European Journal of Information Systems and AI& Society.
Matilda Tudor, PhD and researcher in the Department of Informatics and Media, is a media phenomenologist and feminist media researcher. Her work largely focuses on critical and minority perspectives on what it means to live with and through digital media and communication technologies in relation to the micro politics of everyday existence. It includes a particular interest in theories of embodiment and time-space relationships within the post-digital age. She currently explores experiences of medical age assessments in Swedish migration processes, and everyday automation within intimate human lifeworlds and perceptions of the future. She is the coordinator of the Uppsala Informatics and Media Hub for Digital Existence and the main coordinator of the DIGMEX network and its associated activities.
Jacek Smolicki, PhD and researcher at the BioMe Project at the Department of Informatics and Media. Committed to practice-based, artistic and design research methodologies, Smolicki explores temporal, existential and technological dimensions of listening, recording and archiving practices in human and more-than-human realms. His work is manifested through soundwalks, soundscape compositions, diverse forms of writing, and audio-visual installations. His research within the BioMe project concerns human and other-than-human voices in the context of emerging technologies of capture. In 2022/2023, he has been a Fulbright scholar at Harvard. He is a co-founder and curator of the Walking Festival of Sound. His edited book Soundwalking. Through Time, Space and Technologies was published by Routledge in 2023. www.smolicki.com
Maria Rogg, PhD candidate at the BioMe Project at the Department of Informatics and Media.
Charles M. Ess, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Media and Communication, Oslo University, Ethics advisor and consultant in our work on an existential virtue ethics of care.