Tag Archives: technology

The problem with technological ignorance, or Don’t take your smartphone for granted

“When we, as a society, fail to appreciate the staggering complexity of our modern technologies, we don’t just lose a sense of awe toward what is around us. We lose a sense of what we as humans can build, as well as where we might fall short. It is impressive that people can build and grapple with these astonishingly complex systems at all, something we seem to neglect when we focus on the shortcomings of a technology, rather than its successes and the effort that has gone into it. For example, autocorrect is mostly known for its failures, but in fact it’s an amazing technical feat that dramatically improves text entry speed.
But related to this is something else: Recognizing the overwhelming complexity of our technologies makes it easier to see that bugs and glitches are essentially an inevitability. When anything becomes as complicated as Dijkstra describes, unanticipated consequences will arise. Baked into a proper recognition of the phenomenal complexity around us must also then be a sense of humility—our limits in the face of the technologies we have built—something that we need to acknowledge more and more.”

From “The problem with technological ignorance”, http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2015/12/the_problem_with_technological_ignorance.html

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Young US women in STEM

Depressing slide from Margaret Eisenhart and Carrie Allen’s paper at the AAA2015 (American Anthropological Association meeting) in Denver.

  

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Why are Indians so good at code?

Cheryll Barron offers a historical explanation:

“Indian software aptitude rests on an unlikely pair of factors: an emphasis on learning by rote in Indian schools, and a facility and reverence for abstract thought. These biases of Indian education are all but mutually exclusive in the modern West, where a capacity for abstraction is closely associated with creativity and stimulating, inspirational learning. In India, learning by rote is seen by many, if not most conventional teachers, as essential grounding for creativity – like Picasso’s mastery of perspective and anatomy in his youth – and for unbounded invention and speculation.”

from: “The Indian genius

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What does “work” mean in the 21 Century? (grand title, small rambling post)

Fascinating (if somewhat scattered) post on the Cyborgology blog about hyperemployment, technology  and femininity. The link makes sense once you read it. Read it! (http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2013/11/29/femininity-as-technology/)

In a nutshell, it takes up the term “hyperemployment” (= we all work all the time and not just in the workplace) and argues that women have always had to work all the time but now thanks to new technologies and the increasingly precarious and competitive labour market  we all have to work all the time, attaching second and third and fourth shifts to our working lives. Think about checking your work emails on your Blackberry. Think also of self-grooming practices or housework (which is no longer restricted to women). So basically we are all hyperemployed, and the real price of this is time. Fascinating stuff and some great ideas in that article.

However, I have a major quibble with the way this argument relies on the idea of “traditional employment”. Don’t take me wrong, I’ve also fallen prey to this idea, especially when I studied the marketisation of seafaring jobs. But actually it’s important to realise that the”golden age” of masculinised and standardised “full employment” never quite existed, and that its partial existence is but a short blip in the history of labour. Historically, everyone has had to work to survive – apart from those very thin socio-economic elites who controlled the power and resources and didn’t have to work). So perhaps technologies have destroyed that temporary standardisation of labour and reverted humanity and the nature of labour to the usual state of things – but we now notice this and call it “employment” because we have begun to think in market terms about everything?

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