When technologists describe their hotshot new system for trading stocks or driving cars, the algorithm at its heart always seems to emerge from a magical realm of Spock-like rationality and mathematical perfection. Algorithms can save lives or make money, the argument goes, because they are built on the foundations of mathematics: logical rigor, conceptual clarity, and utter consistency. Math is perfect, right? And algorithms are made out of math.
We spend an awful lot of time now thinking about what algorithms know about us: the ads we see online, the deep archive of our search history, the automated photo-tagging of our families. We don’t spend as much time asking what algorithms want.
Higher education is obsessed with 3-D printing. Makerspaces and fab labs are sprouting like extruded weeds on college campuses, and everyone from business school deans to librarians are asking how 3-D printing and fabrication can be implemented in teaching.
Published as part of a series of short stories and essays over at Medium.com’s magazine Matter on climate change, climate fiction, and how to survive the future. Check out the entire series… The trouble with climate change is that it’s too slow: a creeping disaster causing incremental changes to our lives one year at a […]
Climate fiction, or “cli fi,” can be a dreary genre. Storytellers like to make a grim business of climate change, populating their narratives with a humorless onslaught of death, destruction, drowned monuments, and starving children. Margaret Atwood is the conspicuous exception, somehow managing to tackle the subject, including these familiar elements, with deadpan wit and an irreverent playfulness, making it both more interesting and believable. The flood is coming, her MaddAddam trilogy promises, but there is hope.
I recently read about the launches of both an “ultrasecure” mobile phone for protecting privacy and a clip-on camera that takes a picture of everything you do at 30-second intervals. Our cultural relationship with data is more complicated and contradictory than it has ever been, and our debates on the subject almost always center on privacy. But privacy, the notion that only you should be able to control information about yourself, cloaks a deeper tension between information and meaning, between databases and insights.
In this episode of 5 Burning Questions, we talk with Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination and assistant professor in ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering and Department of English, about science fiction, narrative, the humanities and the future.
Edutainment Wizard and Creative Conjurer
Don Marinelli, Ph.D., is the co-founder of the Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), together with the late Randy Pausch of “The Last Lecture ” fame. Dr. Marinelli’s book, “The Comet and the Tornado” recounts the coming together of a drama professor and a computer scientist to create the unique educational vision that is the ETC.