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The Good Robot

Author: Dr Kerry McInerney and Dr Eleanor Drage

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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. 

79 Episodes
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In this episode we chat to Shannon Vallor, the Bailey Gifford professor in the ethics and data of AI at the University of Edinburgh and the Director for the Centre for Technomoral Futures. We talk about feminist care ethics; technologies, vices and virtues; why Aristotle believed that the people who make technology should be excluded from citizenship; and why we still don't have the kinds of robots that we imagined that we'd have in the early 2000s. We also discuss Shannon's new book, The AI Mirror, which is now available for pre-order. 
 In this episode, we talk to Emily M. Bender and Alex Hanna. AI ethics legends and now the co-hosts of the Mystery AI Hype Theatre 3000 podcast which is a new podcast where they dispel the hype storm around AI. Emily is a professor of linguistics at university of Washington and the co-author of that stochastic parrots paper that you may have heard of, because two very important people in the Google AI ethics team allegedly got fired over it, and that's Timnit Gebru and Meg Mitchell. And Alex Hanna is the director of research at the Distributed AI Research Institute known by its acronym, DAIR, which is now run by Timnit. In this episode, they argue that we should stop using the term AI altogether, and that the world might be better without text to image systems like DALL·E and Midjourney. They tell us how the AI hype agents are getting high on their own supply, and give some advice for young people going into tech careers.
This week we chat to Melissa Heikkilä, a senior tech reporter for MIT Tech review, about ChatGPT, image generation, porn, and the stories we tell about AI. We hope you enjoy the show.
In this episode, we talked to Rebecca Woods, a Senior Lecturer in Language and Cognition at Newcastle University.  We have an amazing chat about language learning in AI, and she tells us how language is crucial to how ChatGPT functions. She's also an expert in how children learn languages, and she compares this to teaching AI how to process languages. 
Happy holidays from your favourite jingle belles at the Good Robot podcast!  In this episode we celebrate both the holidays and Eleanor's new book, The Planetary Humanism of European Women's Science Fiction: An Experience of the Impossible, which is a history of women's utopian science fiction from 1666 to 2016. We talk about the ways that women have imagined better places and times and worse ones throughout history, as well as what utopia means politically and why we need it, lesbian bacteria, Hitchcock's The Birds, and weird deep sea fish..
In this episode we talk to British physicist Jess Wade about the 1923 Wikipedia pages (and counting) she’s created and edited in her aim to put more women and more people of colour onto the online encyclopaedia.  
In this episode we welcome Eleanor back from Slovenia, where she was speaking at a conference. on digital sovereignty. But what is digital sovereignty, and what does it mean for you and your data? 
 In this episode, we talked to Azerbaijani journalist Arzu Geybulla, a specialist on digital authoritarianism and its implications on human rights and press freedoms in Azerbaijan. She now lives in self-imposed exile in Istanbul. Aside from writing for big publications like Al Jazeera, Eurasianet, Foreign Policy Democracy Lab, she also founded Azerbaijan Internet Watch and is writing a political memoir about a lost generation of civil society artists in Azerbaijan. We chat to Arzu about Azerbaijan's use of technology to go after diasporic community members or people who've been exiled from the country, how women are more often targeted than men, subliminal propaganda, misinformation and censorship in the recent Turkish elections, and the importance of tracking and mapping internet censorship and surveillance in authoritarian states.
  In this episode, we speak to K Allado-McDowell a writer, speaker, and musician. They've written three books and an opera libretto, and they've established the artists and machine intelligence program at Google AI. We talk about good technology as healing, the relationship between psychedelics and technology, utopianism and the counter-cultural movements in the Bay Area, and the economics of Silicon Valley. 
In this episode, we talk to Giada Pistilli, Principal Ethicist at Hugging Face, which is the company that Meg Mitchell joined, following her departure from Google. Giada is also completing her PhD in philosophy and ethics of applied conversational AI at Sorbonne University. We talk about value pluralism and AI, which means building AI according to the values of different groups of people. We also explore what it means for an AI company to actually take AI ethics really seriously as well as the state of feminism in France right now
In this episode, we talk to Dr. Matt Mahmoudi, a researcher and advisor on artificial intelligence and human rights at Amnesty International, and an affiliated lecturer at the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. We discuss how AI is being used to survey Palestinians in Hebron and East Jerusalem, both in their bedrooms and in their streets, which Dutch and Chinese companies are supporting this surveillance, and how Israeli security forces have been pivotal to the training of US police. We also think about creative resistance projects like plastering stickers on cameras to notify passes by that they're being watched.
In this episode, we hear all about Kerry’s trip to Japan (spoiler alert: she loved it) and explore her work on anti-Asian racism and AI. Kerry explains what the very long word ‘techno-Orientalism’ means and how fears and fantasies of East Asia or the so-called ‘Orient’ shape Western approaches to technology and AI. We chat about how US sci-fi genres like cyberpunk use imagery from East and South East Asia to connote scary, dystopian futures where the ‘human’ is indistinguishable from the ‘machine’, and how this mimics old stereotypes about East Asian people as ‘mechanical’ or ‘machinic’. 
In this episode, we talk to Dr. Hayleigh Bosher, Associate Dean and Reader in intellectual property law at Brunel University and host of the podcast Whose Song is it Anyway?, a podcast on the intersections of IP [intellectual property] and the music industry. Hayleigh gives us some great insight into tomorrow's legal disputes over AI and music copyright. She tells us why AI can never create an original song, what it takes to sue a generative AI company for creating music in the style of someone, and why generative AI risks missing the point about what creativity is.
In this episode we talk to Meredith Broussard,  data journalism professor at the Arthur L. Carter Institute at New York University. She's also the author of Artificial Unintelligence, which made waves following its release in 2018 by claiming that AI was nothing more than really fancy math. We talk about why we need to bring a little bit more friction back into technology and her latest book More Than a Glitch, which argues that AI that's not designed to be accessible is bad for everyone, in the same way that raised curbs between the pavement and the street that you have to go down to cross the road makes urban outings difficult for lots of people, not just wheelchair users.
In this episode we chat to Grace DiIlon, Professor in the Indigenous Nations Studies Department at Portland State University. Grace, an Anishinaabe cultural critic and a phenomenal storyteller in her own right, gives an overview of the fiction and science books by indigenous writers doing very cool things. We talk about apocalypse and healing, ceremonial science, and the genre of native slipstream. 
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. 
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