Karim Nader

About Me

I am a fourth-year Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin. My research focuses on the ways in which technology reflects and affects human values, so I am usually thinking about ethics, aesthetics, and epistemology. My dissertation is about the ethics of virtual actions. I am also interested in others issues at the intersection of ethics and aesthetics, the ethics of information and technology, algorithmic bias, and algorithmic decision making.

Before coming to the University of Texas, I received a B.A. from Columbia University in philosophy and mathematics and briefly worked in the legal field. I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon.

Outside of philosophy, I practice judo, meditate regularly, and play video games.

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Publications

Click to see the abstract.

Philosophical Publications

Dating through the filters Social Philosophy and Policy, 2021
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In this essay, I explore ethical considerations that might arise from the use of collaborative filtering algorithms on dating apps. Collaborative filtering algorithms can predict the preferences of a target user by looking at the past behavior of similar users. By recommending products through this process, they can influence the news we read, the movies we watch, and more. They are extremely powerful and effective on platforms like Amazon and Google. Recommender systems on dating apps are likely to group people by race, since they exhibit similar patterns of behavior: users on dating platforms seem to segregate themselves based on race, exclude certain races from romantic and sexual consideration (except their own), and generally show a preference for white men and women. As collaborative filtering algorithms learn from these patterns to predict preferences and build recommendations, they can homogenize the behavior of dating app users and exacerbate biased sexual and romantic behavior.

Virtual competitions and the gamer's dilemma Ethics and Information Technology, 2020
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This paper expands Rami Ali’s dissolution of the gamer’s dilemma (Ethics Inf Technol 17:267–274, 2015). Morgan Luck’s gamer’s dilemma (Ethics Inf Technol 11(1):31–36, 2009) rests on our having diverging intuition when considering virtual murder and virtual child molestation in video games. Virtual murder is seemingly permissible, when virtual child molestation is not and there is no obvious morally relevant difference between the two. Ali argues that virtual murder and virtual child molestation are equally permissible/impermissible when considered under different modes of engagement. To this end, Ali distinguishes between story-telling gameplay and simulation games, discussing both in depth. I build on the dissolution by looking into competitive gameplay in order to consider what the morally relevant difference between virtual murder and virtual child molestation might be when competing in a video game. I argue that when competitors consent to participate in a competition, the rules of the competition supersede everyday moral intuitions. As such, virtual competitions ought to represent such consent from virtual characters. Virtual children cannot be represented as giving consent to be molested because (1) children cannot be represented as giving sexual consent, and (2) consent to be possibly molested cannot be given. This creates a morally relevant difference between murder and molestation. By fully addressing competitive gameplay, I answer Luck’s worry that Ali’s dissolution is incomplete (Ethics Inf Technol 20:157–162, 2018).

Empirical Work

Public Understanding of Artificial Intelligence through Entertainment Media AI & Society, 2022 Karim Nader, Paul Toprac, Suzanne Scott, and Samuel Baker
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Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming part of our everyday experience and is expected to be ever more integrated into ordinary life for many years to come. Thus, it is important for those in product development, research, and public policy to understand how the public’s perception of AI is shaped. In this study, we conducted focus groups and an online survey to determine the knowledge of AI held by the American public, and to judge whether entertainment media is a major influence on how Americans perceive AI. What we found is that the American public’s knowledge of AI is patchy: some have a good understanding of what is and what is not AI, but many do not. When it came to understanding what AI can do, most respondents believe that AI could “replace human jobs” but few thought that it could “feel emotion.” Most respondents were optimistic about the future and impact of AI, though about one third were not sure. Most respondents also did not think they could develop an emotional bond with or be comfortable being provided care by an AI. Regarding the influence of entertainment media on perceptions of AI, we found a significant relationship (p < 0.5) between people’s beliefs about AI in entertainment media and their beliefs about AI in reality. Those who believe AI is realistically depicted in entertainment media were more likely to see AIs as potential emotional partners or apocalyptic robots than to imagine AIs taking over jobs or operating as surveillance tools.

Folk Theories and User Strategies on Dating Apps iConference 2022 – Information for a Better World: Shaping the Global Future, 2022 Karim Nader and Min Kyung Lee
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The goal of this paper is to understand the experience of users with algorithmic filtering on dating apps by identifying folk theories and strategies that users employ to maximize their success. The research on dating apps so far has narrowly focused on what we call algorithmic pairing–an explicit pairing of two users together through a displayed compatibility score. However, algorithms behind more recent dating apps work in the background and it is not clear to the user if and how algorithmic filtering is mediating their interaction with other users. This study identifies user goals and behaviors specific to dating apps that use algorithmic filtering: while some users employ various strategies to boost their “attractiveness score” to match with as many people as possible, others attempt to teach the algorithm about their unique preferences if they believe that the filtering is not working in their favor. Our research adds to the growing literature on folk theory formation by introducing dating apps as a novel context for research. Since folk theories are developed with specific goals in mind, they reveal user concerns around algorithmic filtering. Our hope is that this paper starts a conversation on the practical and ethical question of algorithmic intervention on sexual and romantic preferences and behavior.

Online-Computer-Mediated Interviews and Observations: Overcoming Challenges and Establishing Best Practices in a Human-AI Teaming Context Proceedings of the 54rd Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Systems, 2021 Keri Stephens, Karim Nader, Amanda Hughes, Anastazja Harris, Caroline Montagnolo, Ashley Stevens, Yasas Senarath, and Hemant Purohit
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Prior research has established the feasibility of conducting online interviews and observations, yet there is limited guidance in how to interact with participants when conducting fully mediated research with screen-sharing and video. This study, conducted during early phases of COVID-19, included 15 volunteer tweet annotators working with an emergency response organization. This method contribution uses cues-related and surveillance theories to reveal challenges and best practices when asking research participants to share their screen, be on video, and participate in a multiple-interview study. The findings suggest that researchers conducting online-mediated research should be prepared to provide technical support for the devices and interfaces participants use during the study, find ways to “see” beyond what is on the mediated screen, and consider ethical issues not often discussed. In addition to these findings, an output of this research is two brief training videos useful for other researchers embarking on conducting fully mediated research.

Blog Contribution

Dating Through the Filters

Montreal AI Ethics Institute (Printed in The State of AI Ethics, volume 5, July 2021)

Research Assistantships

Bad AI and Beyond: Exploring How Popular Media Shape the Perceived Opportunities and Threats of AI

I am currently working with a research team to study entertainment media's role in shaping the public's perception around artificial intelligence. The project is part of Good Systems, an initiative by the University of Texas at Austin to investigate how to define, evaluate, and build a “Good System.”

Human-AI Teaming for Big Data Analytics to Enhance Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I worked with a research team who received a National Science Foundation RAPID/ Collaborative grant to study the process of real-time decisions that digital volunteers make when quickly converting social media data into codes for machine learning. This will allow us to better the human-machine teaming process. Here is the link that gives all the details of the grant.


Research Funding
Summer Institute for Technology Ethics at Santa Clara University
July 2022 $2,500
Summer Travel Funding Award
May 2022 $2,000
Cogburn Graduate Essay Prize
May 2022 $500
Graduate School Continuing Fellowship
April 2022 $10,000
Summer Dissertation Writing Fellowship
April 2022 $6,000
Cogburn Graduate Essay Prize
May 2021 $500
UT Austin Graduate Student Assembly Travel Award
April 2021 $500
Vice-President for Research Special Research Grant
November 2020 $900
Association Philippe Jabr Scholarship
September 2020 $10,000
Good Systems COVID-19 Research Graduate Student Award
May 2020 $3,960
Professional Development Award
February 2020 $400

Selected Presentations

Bad AI and Beyond: Understanding Representations of AI in Entertainment Media
Good Systems Annual Symposium April 2022; Austin, TX
Folk Theories and User Strategies on Dating Apps
iConference 2022 February 2022; Virtual
The Ethics of Fantasy
UT Austin Feminist Philosophy Reading Group July 2021; Austin, TX
The agency of video game players
ASA Eastern Division Meeting February 2021; Philadelphia, PA (virtual)
Testimonial Dogmatism
UT Austin Epistemology Reading Group February 2021; Austin, TX
Do we have a right to be swiped?
Arizona Feminist Philosophy Graduate Conference February 2020; Tucson, AZ

Guest Lecture

The role of philosophy in Information Studies
for Disciplinary Foundations for Information Studies February 2021; Austin, TX

"Do we have a right to be swiped?" at the Arizona Feminist Philosophy Graduate Conference

Compass

Compass is a workshop for undergraduates from historically underrepresented groups in philosophy. Ten to twelve undergraduates from all around Texas come to Austin for a weekend to participate each year. The workshop consists of discussion sections led by a graduate student on readings in feminist philosophy.

I organized the workshops listed below.

Compass 2022: Feminist Philosophy of Language
Langton, R. (1993). Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 22(4), 293–330.
Kukla, R. (2014). Performative Force, Convention, and Discursive Injustice. Hypatia, 29(2), 440–457.
Maitra, I. (2012). Subordinating Speech. In Speech and Harm. Oxford University Press.
Hom, C. (2008). The Semantics of Racial Epithets. The Journal of Philosophy, 105(8), 416–440.
Saul, J. (2018). Dogwhistles, Political Manipulation, and Philosophy of Language. In New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press.
Compass 2021: Ethics and Aesthetics
Archer, A., & Ware, L. (2018). Beyond the Call of Beauty: Everyday Aesthetic Demands Under Patriarchy. The Monist, 101(1), 114–127.
Bacharach, S. (2018). Finding Your Voice in the Streets: Street Art and Epistemic Injustice. The Monist, 101(1), 31–43.
Devereaux, M. (1998). Beauty and evil: The case of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. In J. Levinson (Ed.), Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection (pp. 227–256). Cambridge University Press.
Goerger, M. (2017). Value, violence, and the ethics of gaming. Ethics and Information Technology, 19(2), 95–105.
Neill, A., & Ridley, A. (2010). Religious Music for Godless Ears. Mind, 119(476), 999–1023.
Rudinow, J. (1994). Race, Ethnicity, Expressive Authenticity: Can White People Sing the Blues? The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 52, 127.

Meditation and Philosophy

I lead the meditation and philosophy group at the University of Texas at Austin, which was founded by Kimberly Dill. The aim of the group is to practice and learn meditation together. We start each semester with a few sessions of guided meditation practices in the Vipassana tradition but everyone is encouraged to follow whatever practice is beneficial to them. We conclude each session by sharing tea and reflecting on our experience.

plato and aristotles