This project on Practical Wisdom and Intelligent Machines ("The Machine Wisdom Project") is funded by a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation Diverse Intelligences program to Colin Allen while at the Department of History & Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh and a sub-award to Chris Davison, Department of Information Systems and Operations Management, Ball State University, Indiana.

The goal of the machine wisdom project is to develop a framework for defining and enhancing practical wisdom in human-machine interactions. The notion of practical wisdom highlights both (1) the current limitations in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Systems (AI/ML) and (2) the dangers entailed when humans must make real-time adjustments to AI/ML systems with only partial understanding of how they work. The Machine Wisdom Project envisages strategies for mitigating both (1) and (2) that recognize lack of self-awareness in current and foreseeable AI/ML technologies, and the need to promote designs that make those limitations apparent.

Feedback loops between the actions of people and artificially intelligent machines constitute socio-technical systems with the potential to alter (positively and negatively) the capacity of individuals to act ethically. We seek to deliver principles and recommendations for the design of socio-technical systems that minimize the likelihood that people adapt to the rigid incomprehension of machines in ways that restrict their own ethical autonomy and responsibility, that minimize the potential for bad actors to exploit these limitations, and that improve the capacity of individuals to act ethically within the socio-technical system.


In May 2021 we held an online invitation-only workshop to work on conceptual issues related to the project. Read a summary here.

The second workshop was held May 12-14, 2022, hosted by the Pittsburgh Center for Philosophy of Science University of Pittsburgh , to further work on the conceptual issues and their practical implementation. Here is a link to the abstract booklet (pdf).

Other Events and Media


During this project Colin Allen was Distinguished Professor of History & Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He has since moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy.

Christopher Davison is Assistant Professor of Computer Technology in the Department of Information Systems and Operations Management at Ball State University.

Brett Karlan was the TWCF-supported Postdoctoral research fellow History & Philosophy of Science for this Machine Wisdom project at the University of Pittsburgh. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University's Human-Centered AI project in academic year 2022-2023, he will become assistant professor of philosophy at Purdue University in the Fall of 2023.


A subproject at Ball State University is the site for our attempt to design a system which makes fair and transparent decisions about heating and cooling based on feedback from building occupants. More information can be found at EMMA subproject page.