Matt Ryan and his daughter, Lucille
Me and my daughter, Lucille 

Matt Ryan, MSCAPP Class of 2024, shares what made Technology, Ethics, and Politics with Professor Jeff Jackson his favorite Harris class. 

I first registered for Technology, Ethics, and Politics with Professor Jeff Jackson simply to have the opportunity to take a class with a close friend of mine, Hisham Yousif, MPP Class of 2023: we had served as Lieutenants in the 101st Airborne Division and deployed to Afghanistan together, so I’d have taken almost any class with him just to spend some time catching up. 

After reading the syllabus and recognizing the names of philosophers like Max Weber and Jaques Ellul, I was enthusiastically committed to the class itself. The issues surrounding information as a public good, data, propaganda, and democracy were already compelling because of my experience with the Army and a commercial cybersecurity company.  

Professor Jackson’s class did not disappoint. Not only was the material interesting, but my classmates’ breadth of professional and personal backgrounds—and their participation—enriched my ability to engage with source material ranging from early mid-18th century philosophy texts to contemporary computer science and law journal articles. 

Matt Ryan, Hisham Yousif, and Mike Aniello
My friends, Mike Anielloand Hisham Yousif, MPP Class of 2023, at the C bench talking about class

Technology, Ethics, and Politics was also professionally relevant for me. Big ideas surrounding the profession of politics and science, the essence of technology, questions of accountability, responsibility, and ethics loom large in contemporary policymaking. The current political environment concerning technology has no doubt contributed to the launch of interdisciplinary projects like UChicago’s Data and Democracy Initiative, among many related projects across the country. Projects like these require data science skills as well as fundamental understanding of the nature and history of technological and political problems.  

What I learned in class is that these ideas have histories over 100 years old, and that delving seriously into the primary source texts helps us generate new ideas.  

What I would say I most loved about Professor Jackson’s class—and what will stay with me throughout my time at Harris and beyond—was the opportunity to examine what challenges face aspiring policy professionals in 2023. We methodically questioned assumptions about the nature of technology and policy and who was accountable for unintended consequences of technologies. I also had opportunities to share and consider to what degree policies reflected the professional ethics education I received in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and in the Army more broadly. 

What’s more, many of my classmates have kept in touch after the quarter ended: many of us continue to read, write, and share everything from pieces of writing to internship opportunities to simple well wishes and encouragement.

Any profession worth joining takes a hard look at the fundamental nature of its own work and isn’t afraid to consider possible alternatives informed by history. Professor Jackson’s class is a chance to do that, improve writing skills, and work with other students interested in technology, philosophy, and politics.