Archive for category: Reflections

Bugs, Drugs, Documents.

Bugs, Drugs, Documents.

  What a fortnight it’s been for (anti)microbials! A fortnight presaging an emergent summer of action, discontent and alarm. First up, there’s the final report from the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, a body commissioned by the British Government to delve into the “global problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and propose concrete actions to tackle it internationally”. Released on May 19th, 2016, the final report’s warnings couldn’t be starker: if things carry on as they are with the uptake of antimicrobials and a simultaneous diminishment in the new development of antibiotics, then by 2050, 10 million—yes, that’s correct, ten million—people will […]

Precarity and its discontents

This morning, as I was going through my RSS feeds, I encountered this sentence on Vox in their summary of recent news about Uber: To liberals and labor lawyers — including the woman who represented Uber’s drivers in these suits, profiled in January by Mother Jones — Uber was one of many companies that have prospered in the “gig economy” by keeping their employees in precarity. [Mother Jones / Hannah Levintova] What jumped out (let’s leave Uber out for the time being) was the use of the word “precarity,” which is used by the Vox authors, but isn’t really in the Mother […]

On the Promise of AlphaGo

On the Promise of AlphaGo

  Games are an old venue for the development of AI programs, and have been part of the AI repertoire since the beginnings of the field. Turing wrote about games in his 1948 paper “Intelligent Machinery,” in which he suggested chess, noughts and crosses, bridge, and poker as among the games to teach machines. Why the focus on games that foreground disembodied mental activity? Because a “thinking machine” constructed in the image of a man would be “a tremendous undertaking” and therefore would be “altogether too slow and impractical” a research project (p. 39). Minksy, in the introduction to the […]

A Few Thoughts on the Recent Google Car “Crash”

A Few Thoughts on the Recent Google Car “Crash”

As someone who studies automated vehicles, I have had a number of people send me links about the recently publicized “first” at-fault Google car crash (see this article for example). This is actually a really interesting situation, and presents a good moment to comment on a couple of important issues. First: As I wrote about in my M.S. thesis last spring, the notion of responsibility becomes more difficult to pin down in distributed and hybrid systems of humans and machines. Around this time, the frequency of Google car accidents came to light, with the inevitable comparisons to human accident rates […]

Silicon Valley as Ally or Foe? Reflections on the Politics of Income Inequality

Silicon Valley as Ally or Foe? Reflections on the Politics of Income Inequality

[I wrote this for the Platypus (the blog for CASTAC) last week.  But I thought it might be fun to repost it here.] The meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries—and the Occupy movement before that—have officially put income inequality on the political radar in the U.S., after years of slow wage growth and a near-catastrophic financial crash. In keeping with the times, Silicon Valley too has begun thinking about inequality. Resident philosopher Paul Graham, venture capitalist and founder of the famous YCombinator startup incubator, wrote an essay on inequality that caused a bit of a ruckus (in […]

HASTS Mobile Seminar, 1st ed.

HASTS Mobile Seminar, 1st ed.

HASTS’s Mobile Seminar, 1st ed. (last week) was a lot of fun — at least that’s what the participants said — and it sounds like it’s something we’d like to do again soon. Stay tuned about a possible Denver edition in November, for those of you who will be going to AAA and 4S, and, weather-allowing, another in December. How it worked: we walked from the department, across the Mass Ave bridge, along the Esplanade, and back, over about an hour and a half. We partnered up for 40 minutes at a time, with the conversation focusing on each person for […]

On Ninjas & Data Analysis: STS at the Tokyo Trick Art Museum

On Ninjas & Data Analysis: STS at the Tokyo Trick Art Museum

Three stalwart companions in silliness; Tokyo Trick Art Museum, May 2015. Many thanks to Tim Highfield & Jasmine Li. Trick Art Museums—and their upstart rival Trick Eye Museums—are spreading rapidly across East Asia. Both museum franchises specialize in a particular kind of trompe l’oeil optical illusion designed for interaction and reproduction. According to the Trick Art website, the first Trick Art Museum opened in 1992 in Tochigi prefecture in Japan. There are currently eighteen dedicated galleries and museums in Japan alone, and Trick Art and Trick Eye franchises now span Tokyo to Singapore, Bali to Mongolia. You’ll find them in kitschy […]

Trusting Experts: How to reconcile STS and social psychology in the case of King. Vs. Burwell

[A modified version of a post that I wrote here on my personal blog.] In a few weeks, the US Supreme Court will hand down what could possibly be a historic decision in the case King vs. Burwell.  The case concerns the Obama Administration’s signature healthcare legislation: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, sometimes just called the ACA or Obamacare (though this term is often used pejoratively by its opponents). The ACA rests on three pillars: regulations about the content and cost of a health insurance plan, the individual mandate that makes it compulsory for every resident to buy […]

How Do You Prefer Your Eggs?

How Do You Prefer Your Eggs?

As a [Turkish] woman in my early thirties, I have realized that I am becoming more and more “exposed” to thoughts, conversations, advice and even warnings concerning reproduction and having a child. Conducting my dissertation fieldwork in IVF clinics definitely contributes to this exposure. Somehow, my interviews and/or conversations with women undergoing IVF to have a child in their thirties or forties often take the form of women cautiously advising me (as a 32-year-old, unmarried, doctoral student – a.k.a., a “career woman”) to get married and have a child before it’s too late. In a way, the women’s admonishment implies, […]

+STS-Meeting: Spatial STS

+STS-Meeting: Spatial STS

Cambridge (MA), October 22nd, 2014. What is the place of space in Science & Technology Studies (STS)? This was the key question that the cross-STS Working Group discussed in its October 2014 meeting, suggesting that space emerges as an increasingly important and explicitly analyzed category. Robin Scheffler, who is currently a visiting scholar at the Cantabrigian American Academy of Arts and Sciences and will join MIT’s Program in STS next year, led the discussion. Building on a pre-circulated reading (Finnegan 2008), he provided a sketch of the place of space in seminal STS works from the past 30 years to […]