Lorraine Daston on the Exorcism of Emotion in Rational Science (and AI)
In this episode, the historian of science Lorraine Daston explains why science has long been allergic to emotion, which is seen to be the enemy of truth. Instead, objective reason is science’s virtue. She explores moments where it’s very difficult for scientists not to get personally involved, like when you’re working on your pet hypothesis or theory, which might lead you to select data that confirms your hypothesis, or when you’re confronted with some anomalies in your dataset that threaten a beautiful and otherwise perfect theory. But Lorraine also reminds us that the desire for objectivity can itself be an emotion, as it was when Victorian scientists expressed their heroic masculine self-restraint. She also explains why we should only be using AI for the parts of our world which are actually predictable, and how it’s not just engineers who debug algorithms, now that task is being outsourced to us - the consumers - as we’re the ones who are now forced to flag downstream effects when things go wrong.