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Yvonne Stevens, Faculty Fellow
Yvonne Stevens, Faculty Fellow
Stevens and LSI Faculty Director, Gary Marchant also co-authored a chapter in the newly released book, Surviving the Machine Age: Intelligent Technology and the Transformation of Human Work. The book, “examines the current state of the technologically-caused unemployed, and attempts to answer the question of how to proceed into an era beyond technological unemployment. Beginning with an overview of the most salient issues, the experts collected in this work present their own novel visions of the future and offer suggestions for adapting to a more symbiotic economic relationship with AI. These suggestions include different modes of dealing with education, aging workers, government policies, and the machines themselves. Ultimately, they lay out a whole new approach to economics, one in which we learn to merge with and adapt to our increasingly intelligent creations.” The book is available through Amazon or by visiting Google Books.
On the lighter side of things today, how about an article titled AI engineer builds and marries his robot wife? The wedding ceremony was, apparently, informal. First, however, the wife will have to learn how to walk (what were the engineer’s priorities?). Then she is scheduled to learn how to do “some household chores.”
The most important thing to accept up front about the Ghost in the Shell movie is that it is not the same as the anime original. The original took the relationship between humans and emerging technologies as a serious and interesting speculative domain, and wove anime around it; the movie takes CGI and action, and drags in anything deeper as pretty much an afterthought. The original was atmospheric and Japanese, with the ambiguity and subtlety radiated by the best anime; the movie is slick and futuristic, with most of its ambiguity involving large caliber weapons. The anime cityscape was brilliant in its urban post-modernist cyberpunk feel; the cityscape of the movie is loud, brash, interesting, but somehow sterile. The movie essentially takes a meditation in E minor and replays it in C – nothing wrong with the key of C, but it isn’t gonna give you the same brooding angst. And, although some of the movie’s video images – mysterious airplanes from alleyways, for example – are direct copy from the anime, it is better to think of the movie as a jazzy variation on a theme, not just playing Bach on a piano rather than a harpsichord.
So the movie doesn’t lead one to ponder the relationship between the human and technology in the same way the anime does – which, since it is a major movie and undoubtedly fairly expensive to film, is not what you should have expected anyway. Thinking in lieu of horsepower, explosions, or guns, lots of guns, isn’t really how you recoup your investment in a major American film. But nonetheless the movie does manage to speak to technological themes, and not just in the obvious ways – omniscient cyber, city of holographs, too much information wash, cool tech, lost solipsistic souls isolated in their own infofeeds.
Most importantly, it takes sides in the ever-present clash of civilizations regarding the relationship between technology and humanity. Many Westerners, especially post-moderns and emo leftist romantics, visualize the world as a constant war between humanity and technology; the Frankenstein mythos is their guiding star. But the Japanese and others view technology and the human as co-evolutionary branches of spirit, and the easy integration which both the anime and the film portray is the anti-Frankenstein (it is also, to judge by the multitudes glued to their mobile phones, the more realistic). The evil in both the anime and the film comes not from technology, but from the human, and it is resolved not by technology, but by the human. The ideas are still there, just harder to find under a glossy and distracting shell.
But really: stop being a snobbish purist for a moment, allow yourself to enjoy the film for what it is, and you’ll have a good time. Scarlet Johansson is, of course, good, which is what you expect. Casting is excellent if somewhat puzzling: in some places Japanese is spoken, and of course the story comes from Japanese sources and takes place in a Japanese environment, but the characters are mostly anglicized (when they aren’t wearing black masks and playing with major weapon systems). And the special effects, and fairly continuous action, are state of the art. If it is a different and less noir city than in the original, it is certainly one of the more interesting visions of a future city I’ve seen in a while, and managed to be repellant and somehow bland at the same time. And after you’re through enjoying the movie, check out the anime version. You’ll be glad you did both of them.
LSI Faculty Fellow, Diana Bowman, recently published a thoughtful article on nanotechnologies utilizing the eight specific nano regulation and governance recommendations of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, published over ten years ago, as a springboard from then to now. Below is an abstract:
“It is now more than a decade since the release of the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering’s (RA/RAEng) seminal report on nanosciences and nanotechnologies. The report, for the first time, brought together the spectrum of scientific and societal issues underpinning the emergence of the technology. In articulating 21 recommendations, the RA/RAEng provided the United Kingdom Government—and others—with an agenda on how they could, and should, deal with the disparate aspects of the technology. The report provides a baseline to measure progress against. By focusing on the eight recommendations that dealt specifically with regulation and governance, I reflect on the extent, and nature, of this progress; identify key actors in shaping the evolving governance framework; and, importantly, distinguish areas where progress appears to have lagged.”
During the semester we feature a technology with potential legal, social and/or ethical implications and ask:
One $25 Starbucks gift card awarded per challenge based on what we feel is the most judicious response to the highlighted technology, below.
Deadline to be eligible for this month’s Starbucks gift card is April 28,2017.
For life-insurance policy risk-assessment purposes, DNA methylation technology is now being used to assess the health and life-expectancy of insurance applicants. Applicants are asked to provide saliva samples providing particular genetic information. What are some of the legal or ethical issues you see emanating from this practice? Are there any statutory or other legal protections that might impact the collection and use of the samples and accompanying information? Read more here and here.