Digital Humanities, Universities

Ignoring Tech in the Ivory Tower?

Tuesday, 14th November 2017

From Nov. 14, 2017

Who is this Cathy O’Neil person and how is it possible that she is this clued out? “Where’s academia when it comes to helping us make sense of this?” Um, all over it, for decades now? With tons of publications, graduate programs, theoretical approaches, and every other thing you could imagine?

Let’s ask another question: why do people willfully ignore the work that has been done for this long, and act as if we don’t know anything about anything? I retract the question – I think the answers are probably clear. Disciplined reflection on the world around us doesn’t hold a candle to self-interested arguments.

One of my favorite lines: “There is essentially no distinct field of academic study that takes seriously the responsibility of understanding and critiquing the role of technology — and specifically, the algorithms that are responsible for so many decisions — in our lives.” Well, no, not true, not even a bit. We have a Ph.D. program that does that at UCF. We’re not the only ones. It is interdisciplinary, yes, because studying complex problems in society has to be. So, there’s no discipline called “Figuring Out the Social Impact of Technology”. But there are loads of interdisciplinary programs, going back to the 70’s.

Yeah, we know lots. We don’t know everything, but we know lots. And some of it is written in highly accessible language, too. There’s no excuse for a data scientist like O’Neil, or for that matter a politician or someone generally interested in these things, to be unaware of this.

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