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The Good Robot

Dr Kerry McInerney and Dr Eleanor Drage
60 episodes   Last Updated: Aug 15, 23

Join Dr Eleanor Drage and Dr Kerry McInerney as they ask the experts: what is good technology? Is ‘good’ technology even possible? And how can feminism help us work towards it? Each week, they invite scholars, industry practitioners, activists, and more to provide their unique perspective on what feminism can bring to the tech industry and the way that we think about technology. With each conversation, The Good Robot asks how feminism can provide new perspectives on technology’s biggest problems. 


In this episode, we talk to Mar Hicks, an Associate Professor of Data Science at the University of Virginia and author of Programmed Inequality: How Britain discarded Women Technologists and Lost its Edge in computing. Hicks talks to us about the lessons that the tech industry can learn from histories of computing, for example: how sexism is an integral feature of technological systems and not just a bug that can be extracted from them; how techno-utopianism can stop us from building better technologies; when looking to the past is useful and when it's not helpful; the dangers of the 'move fast and break things' approach where you just build technology just to see what happens; and whether regulatory sandboxes are sufficient in making sure that tech isn't deployed unsafely on an unsuspecting public.
Welcome to this week’s Hot Take, where your hosts Kerry and Eleanor give their candid opinion on the latest in tech news. This week they discuss the rebranding of Twitter as X and how people like Elon Musk have an outsized impact on the daily technologies that we use, on the kinds of technologies that get made and created, and on the kinds of needs that get prioritized when it comes to user preferences and desires. From X to the Barbie movie, they explore why diversity matters in the tech industry, as well as why trying to understand what ‘diversity’ is and what it means in context is much trickier than it sounds. 
 We talk to Peter Hershock, director of the Asian Studies Development Program and coordinator of the Humane AI Initiative at the East-West Center in Honolulu. We talked to Peter about the kinds of misconceptions and red herrings that shape public interpretations of machine consciousness and what we can gain from approaching the question of machine consciousness from a Buddhist perspective. Our journey takes us from Buddhist teaching about relational dynamics that tell us that nothing exists independently from someone or something else to how to make the best tofu larb. 
In this week’s Good Robot Hot Takes, Kerry and Eleanor talk about a group of scientists in Zurich that tried to measure a correlation between brain activity and sexuality using AI. This smacks not only of previous attempts to use AI to try and ‘read’ people’s sexuality, but also of dangerous 19th and 20th century race science. We talk about how the language of science is weaponised against queer people, why there are no real scientific foundations to using AI to detect sexuality, and why science needs to think about sexuality not as fixed or static but wild and infinite. 
In this episode we chat to Karen Levy, Associate Professor of Information Science at Cornell University and author of Data Driven: Truckers, Technology, and the New Workplace Surveillance. Karen is an expert in the changing face of long distance driving - she spent ten years doing research with truck drivers. So she’s been looking at how surveillance and automation are changing what it means to be a  trucker in the USA. We talk about how truckers are responding to new AI technologies monitoring their behaviour, and what the future holds for the trucking industry. We recorded this a while ago so it’s an audio-only episode. 
Welcome to our third episode of the Good Robot Hot Takes. Every two weeks Kerry and Eleanor will be giving their hot take on some of the biggest issues in tech. If you’re a graduate or a jobseeker, this is the episode for you because this week we talk about AI that’s being used for recruitment. That’s right, AI is being used to assess your performance in an interview. In fact companies are claiming that their tools can read your personality by looking at your face, and that this can strip away a candidate’s race and gender.  We hope you enjoy the show.
In this episode we chat with Ofri Cnaani, an artist and associate lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London. Artists are doing amazing things in tech spaces, not just working with tech but also using art to explore how our world is infused with data. Ofri discusses some of her projects with us, including her investigation of the fire that destroyed the National Museum of Brazil in 2018, which prompted a massive crowdsourced appeal for photos of museum exhibits taken by visitors, and her Statistical Bodies project, which humorously looks at what kind of data about bodies aren't yet useful, like jealousy and social fatigue, or what is impossible to capture about the body. 
Welcome to our second episode of the Good Robot Hot Takes, where every week Kerry and Eleanor give you their spicy opinions about top issues in tech. This week we talk about science fiction films, why we love Aliens and Sigourney Weaver, how female AI scientists and professionals are represented on screen, how this contributes to the unequal gender dynamics of the AI industry, why Iron Man's Tony Stark sucks, and why he and Ex Machina's Nathan Bateman aren’t just bad apples but an epidemic of conceited AI scientists on screen.
From using computers to process the work of Thomas Aquinas to using facial recognition to compare portraits of Shakespeare, computational techniques have long been applied to humanities research. These projects are now called the digital humanities, and today we’re interviewing two major figures in this discipline. We talk to Dr Sharon Webb, Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities at the University of Sussex, History Department and a Director of the Sussex Humanities Lab, and Caroline Bassett, Professor of Digital Humanities in the Faculty of English and the Director of Cambridge Digital Humanities at the University of Cambridge. They tell us about full stack feminism, hidden histories of women's involvement in computing, and what it means to bring feminism into the study of technology.  
Welcome to our new format: The Good Robot Hot Takes! In these fun, lively, conversational episodes, we (Eleanor and Kerry) discuss some of the biggest issues in tech, from ChatGPT, and the sexy fembot problem in Hollywood film, to why predictive policing is a scam and why gender recognition is garbage.This week we're talking about the Future of Life Institute's open letter calling for an AI 'pause' in the wake of ChatGPT. We explore framing large language models as 'foundational' and therefore inevitable, the dangers of AI 'race' rhetoric, why AI's long term harms are given way more attention than its more immediate ones, and how race and gender shape what 'counts' as existential risk.EDIT - This episode has been re-uploaded to make a correction. Bostrom is associated with the Future of Life Institute, but he is not the Founder or a Founding member, as we originally stated.