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Friday, April 23, 2021

Histories of digitech and science: New readings.

Got onto these this week via book reviews in a new Science Magazine issue. Powerful stuff, with some interesting topical overlap (which also goes to the work of MIT's Dr. Sherry Turkle).

My affinity for Dr. Oreskes' science cred is no secret on this blog. And, coming to know the work of Dr. Crawford has been delightful. She is a co-founder of the AI Now Institute at NYU, which I've cited before.
A common thematic thread across these two works is that of "who benefits, and who pays?" (What's new, 'eh?) The corporations driving AI (and digitech broadly) see us all as "consumer" objects to be classified and monetized. The largely DOD funders of oceanographic research see the marine ecosystem as little more than a battlespace to be optimized for strategic military purposes.

On AI and "military purposes," see my March 16th post.
Well worth your time.
The Production of Knowledge and Ignorance

In my prior work on the history of debates over continental drift, plate tectonics, and anthropogenic climate change, I have been primarily interested in the production of scientific knowledge. I have queried how scientists decide when they have enough evidence of sufficient quality to say that a scientific question has been answered, as well as how they judge what constitutes “evidence” and “quality.” 45 Here, I am interested in how military funding affected which questions scientists believed needed answering in the first place and how they went about answering them. I argue that, while Navy funding produced a great deal of scientific knowledge, it was also productive of considerable ignorance, not only by bringing some questions to the fore and pushing others aside, but also by structuring how scientists thought about the ocean and what they even thought the ocean was. The military context of motivation led oceanographers to view the ocean primarily as a medium through which sound was transmitted and men and machines would travel, and not as an abode of life. This, I argue, had significant, lasting consequences. Thus, I offer this work as a contribution both to the history of science—the study of the production of knowledge—and to agnotology, the study of the production of ignorance.

Oreskes, Naomi (2106-02-07T01:28:15). Science on a Mission (Kindle Locations 387-397). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.

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