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Podcast: Lucy Suchman, “Artificial Intelligence & Modern Warfare”

Professor Lucy Suchman

Lancaster University’s Lucy Suchman’s concern is with the asymmetric distributions of sociotechnologies of (in)security, their deadly and injurious effects, and the legal, ethical, and moral questions that haunt their operations.

In June of 2018, following a campaign initiated by activist employees within the company, Google announced its intention not to renew a US Defense Department contract for Project Maven, an initiative to automate the identification of military targets based on drone video footage. Defendants of the program argued that that it would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of US drone operations, not least by enabling more accurate recognition of those who are the program’s legitimate targets and, by implication, sparing the lives of noncombatants. But this promise begs a more fundamental question: What relations of reciprocal familiarity does recognition presuppose? And in the absence of those relations, what schemas of categorization inform our readings of the Other? The focus of a growing body of scholarship, this question haunts not only US military operations but an expanding array of technologies of social sorting. Understood as apparatuses of recognition (Barad 2007: 171), Project Maven and the US program of targeted killing are implicated in perpetuating the very architectures of enmity that they take as their necessitating conditions. Taking any apparatus for the identification of those who comprise legitimate targets for the use of violent force as problematic, this talk joins a growing body of scholarship on the technopolitical logics that underpin an increasingly violent landscape of institutions, infrastructures and actions, promising protection to some but arguably contributing to our collective insecurity. Lucy Suchman’s concern is with the asymmetric distributions of sociotechnologies of (in)security, their deadly and injurious effects, and the legal, ethical, and moral questions that haunt their operations. She closes with some thoughts on how we might interrupt the workings of these apparatuses, in the service of wider movements for social justice.

Lucy Suchman is a Professor of Anthropology of Science and Technology in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University, in the United Kingdom.

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Andrew Whitacre
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Andrew Whitacre

Andrew directs the communications efforts for CMS/W and its research groups. A native of Washington, D.C., he holds a degree in communication from Wake Forest University, with a minor in humanities, as well as an M.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College.

This work includes drawing up and executing strategic communications plans, with projects including website design, social media management and training, press outreach, product launches, fundraising campaign support, and event promotions.

Elizabeth Borneman
Written by
Elizabeth Borneman

Elizabeth is a designer, writer, and researcher interested in how art, computation, and communication can combine to strengthen community structures, and enhance learning across learner backgrounds. A Florida native, Elizabeth earned her Bachelor of Science in Neurobiology from Georgetown University. There she led a research team in the Culture and Emotions Lab investigating the campus climate for patterns in students’ belonging and social engagement across university locations and situational contexts. She also spent a semester in Cape Town, South Africa as a field researcher studying plant systems and animals’ optimal foraging, ideal free distribution, and territorial defense behaviors.

She most recently worked as a designer and programmer artist in Xaq Pitkow’s Computational Neuroscience lab, where she designed and prototyped interactive graphics and games for teaching and communicating concepts in computational neuroscience and in color vision grounded in visual perception. She’s excited about the power of info-visualization. At MIT, Elizabeth works in the Teaching Systems Lab designing multi-media practice spaces and curriculum for equitable teaching in Computer Science and STEM. Outside of study, Elizabeth likes to go dancing, spend time on the water, and explore outdoors.

Andrew Whitacre Written by Andrew Whitacre
Elizabeth Borneman Written by Elizabeth Borneman