Josh Simons is a Graduate Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Centre for Ethics and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet at Society, at Harvard Univeristy.
Josh’s research explores the politics and ethics of machine learning. His dissertation argues that machine learning is political. In the context of social inequality encoded in vast data sets, machine learning requires choices to be made, from which some win and some lose, and which shape the distribution of power over time. The dissertation explores what follows from recognising the political character of machine learning. It uses machine learning to explore familiar problems in political theory and law about discrimination and fairness, justice and justification, and even the scope of democratic politics.
Josh is currently working on two strands of research. The first explores how the purposes of equality and civil rights law can be achieved in an age of widespread statistical decision-making. He was previously a US-India Public Interest Technology Fellow at the New America Foundation, exploring what the US and UK might learn from the Indian approach to ensuring promoting equality and addressing discrimination. He is working on several projects that explore why more widespread positive duties to promote equality may be required in civil rights and discrimination law in the US and UK in the governance of machine learning.
The second examines how internet platforms like Facebook and Google use machine learning to shape access to information and public debate. Josh is working on several papers that argue we should think of these machine learning systems as a kind of algorithmic public infrastructure, and as such, we should revive and reform the concept of public utilities as a tool for regulating internet platforms. Josh is exploring several practical experiments that would apply the tools of deliberative decision-making to corporate governance and AI design in internet platforms regulated as public utilities.
Beyond his doctoral research, Josh is co-editor with with Danielle Allen of the Pandemic Resilience Project, which has pushed for the development of a nationwide Testing, Tracing and Supported Isolation (TSSI) infrastructure, and has worked with Michael Sandel on the values and principles that capture why we value work, for which he conducted interviews in Huntington, West Virginia.
Josh is actively engaged in progressive politics. He has written about the British Constitution after Brexit, the history and idea of British identity, technology and politics, and economic trust, and previously worked as a Policy Advisor for the Labour Party and on housing policy for the Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK.
Josh graduated in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University, graduating top of his year with a starred double first.