The main part of the show is an interview with sociologist Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, where she studies the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine. Additionally, she is the founder of the JUST DATA Lab and author of two books, People’s Science (Stanford) and Race After Technology (Polity), and editor of Captivating Technology (Duke). She writes, teaches, and speaks widely about the relationship between knowledge and power, race and citizenship, and health and justice. These are the topics discussed in the interview.
The interview is in three parts, beginning about 53 minutes in.
In this show, Dr. Annette Zimmermann joins Stevie in the WPRB studio. Annette is a political philosopher with Princeton University’s Center for Human Values and Center for Information and Technology Policy. We discuss artificial intelligence — what it is and what it isn’t — ethics, fairness, and how these topics come together in our world today. In particular, the current focus of her research is in the area of algorithmic injustice. This is the way through which algorithmic decision making systems (e.g. an AI computer program) could result in imbalanced outcomes for different societal groups.
Interview begins at 50 minutes.
Annette Zimmermann and her colleague (and previous guest of the show) Bendert Zevenbergen recently wrote a post for the CITP blog Freedom to Tinker on AI Ethics: Seven Traps. The piece is meant to be a “resource for readers who want to understand and navigate the public debate on the ethics of AI better, who want to contribute to ongoing discussions in an informed and nuanced way, and who want to think critically and constructively about ethical considerations in science and technology more broadly.” Indeed, it’s a great follow-up read for those interested in exploring these topics further.
Featured Image: Barrett Lyon, The Opte Project Mapping the Internet (2003), MoMA. Opte is a free, open source project, initiated by Lyon with the goal of making visual representations of metaphysical spaces.
Throughout the show they discuss the Internet (what is it really), why regulating it is hard – try as some government’s might, power dynamics in tech and tech policy, and much more along these lines. Interview begins at 51 minutes in.
In this show Stevie spoke with paleontologist Evan Saitta, expert on dinosaurs and fossilization. We discuss dinosaurs broadly, as well as what what we know, how we know it, and what are the really difficult questions. Stevie also learns how Jurassic Park lied to her, and how we know some dinosaurs have feathers. Towards the end of the conversation, Evan discusses his fascinating work actually making fossils in the lab!
Science news and events started out the show. 45 minutes in, Professor Adam Elga came on the mic to speak on some thought problems in philosophy that are pertinent to his research. For instance we start with the problem of contingency: how concerned should we be that much of what we believe is contingent on, for example, the circumstances of our birth?
We then build up the conversation to his current research on cascading failures – this is when systems that depend on each other fail in a kind of domino effect. Think the 2008 Financial Crisis. This gets us in to topics like the Tragedy of the Commons, the Prisoners’ Dilemma, and his (and his collaborator Daniel Oppenheimer’s) new concept of Risk Pollution.
More information on the topics we discussed in the show, provided by Adam Elga:
Trouble with the Mixcloud embed? The live show can be found here.
Science news and events started out the show. Brian spoke on new research on concussions and Stevie on the Chinese space station that fell to Earth recently. 45 minutes in, Professor Matt Weinberg came on the mic to speak on his work as a theoretical computer scientist. He researches mechanism design – these are algorithms that take user incentives in to account. He considers human decision making and economics to design algorithms to guide the user to interact with the algorithm in the optimal way. He uses the example of online dating, ad auctions on sites like Facebook and Google, and cryptocurrencies.
This show had tons of great science news and an excellent discussion with Aaron Wolf, doctoral researcher on neanderthal genomes and specifically how neanderthal and modern human genomes mixed (i.e. they reproduced) in ancient times. To begin, Aaron walks us through what we know about neanderthals and our modern misconceptions of them, and how they came about. From there, he discusses how the neanderthal genome was mapped, and why we think that most living humans have about 2% neanderthal DNA — and what that DNA is for.
This week on These Vibes, Stevie discussed research with fellow observational cosmologist, Eve Vavagiakis. Eve is a researcher on the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, aka ACT, located in the Atacama desert in Chile. She discusses cosmology and astrophysics, her research and how she makes her measurements, and answers excellent listener questions.
Early in the episode, Norbert J. Cruz-Lebron, graduate student in neuroscience and member of the Princeton SACNAS Chapter, jumped on the mic to tell us about the current state of affairs in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Additionally, he tells us about his own experience being in the US while the rest of his family was at their home in PR when the hurricane hit, and shares testimonials from friends and family. (Hopefully he’ll be back on the show next year to tell us about his graduate research!)