Show cover of The Good Robot

The Good Robot

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. 

Tracks

Darren Byler on how China surveils Uyghur Muslims
In this episode, we talked to Darren Byler, author of Terror Capitalism and In the Camps, Life in China's High Tech Penal Colony. We discussed his in depth research on Uyghur Muslims in China and the role played by technology in their persecution. If you're just listening to this on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts, you can now watch us on YouTube at The Good Robot Podcast.This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
27:11 3/26/24
Thuy Linh Tu on the Racial History of Dermatology
In this episode we talk to Thuy Linh Thu, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU. We talk about how good technology disperses power, while bad technology concentrates power, the racial history of dermatology,  including the connections between the Vietnam War, medical experimentation on incarcerated men in the U. S., and retinol creams,. Please note that this episode contains references to medical experimentation and racial violence.This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
28:18 3/12/24
Hot Take: The Good Robot BOOK!
In this very special Good Robot hot take we talk about our new book, The Good Robot: Why Technology Needs Feminism. It's a beautiful new illustrated book where the top scholars, activists, artists, writers, technologists, all come together to respond to the prompt: good technology is... Kerry and Eleanor chat about getting its illustrations as tattoos, and you can vote for which one you think we should get tattooed. And then we have some more serious conversations about why good technology is always complicit, whether that be a blood glucose monitor, the Dyson Air Wrap, a Tangle Teezer, a water purifier or Kerry's option: knitting needles. The book has just launched online and in stores. So you can find it at your local bookshop. We know that it stocked in Waterstones, hers. Blackwells, Pages of Hackney... and of course this wouldn't be an episode on the complicities of good technology without saying that you can also find it on Amazon. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
29:46 3/5/24
Shannon Vallor on feminist care ethics, techno-virtues and vices, and the 'AI Mirror'
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. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
31:23 2/20/24
Emily M. Bender and Alex Hanna on Why You Shouldn't Believe the AI Hype
 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 episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
29:50 2/6/24
Melissa Heikkilä on Why the Stories We Tell About AI Matter
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.This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
27:36 1/23/24
Rebecca Woods on Large Language Models, Language and Meaning, and How Children Learn Languages
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. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
45:47 1/9/24
Hot Take: Happy Holidays & a new book from Eleanor!
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..This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
31:51 12/26/23
Jess Wade on Rewriting Wikipedia
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.  This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
35:37 12/12/23
Hot Take: Can you own your data?
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? This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
38:47 12/4/23
Arzu Geybulla on Digital Authoritarianism and Press Freedom
 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.This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
37:31 11/28/23
K Allado-McDowell on technology, psychedelics and healing
  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. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
37:25 11/14/23
Giada Pistilli on good corporations, AI ethics and value pluralism
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 nowThis episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
36:58 10/31/23
Matt Mahmoudi on Facial Recognition and Surveillance in Palestine
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.This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
38:51 10/17/23
Hot Take: Fighting Fears and Fantasies of East Asia (and AI)
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’. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
31:56 10/4/23
Hayleigh Bosher on Generative AI, Creativity, and what AI means for the Music Industry
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.This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
40:32 9/26/23
Meredith Broussard on Why Sexism, Racism and Ableism in Tech are 'More than a Glitch'
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.This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
39:00 9/12/23
Grace Dillon on Indigenous Sciences, Technologies, and Science Fiction
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. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
36:08 9/1/23
Mar Hicks on the Unexpected History of Computing
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.This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
33:56 8/15/23
Hot Take: Twitter is to X as Barbie is to Ken
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. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
23:47 8/1/23
Peter Hershock on Buddhist Approaches to Machine Consciousness
 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. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
42:57 7/18/23
Hot Take: Detecting Sexuality with AI is Fake Science
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. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
35:50 7/11/23
Karen Levy on Worker Surveillance and the US Trucking Industry
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. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
29:35 7/4/23
Hot Take: Can AI De-Bias Hiring?
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.This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
34:46 6/27/23
Ofri Cnaani on Art, Digital Archives and Activism
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. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
29:55 6/20/23
Hot Take: Most AI Scientists in Films Suck
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.This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
28:18 6/13/23
Caroline Bassett and Sharon Webb on Full Stack Feminism and the Digital Humanities
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.  This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
35:50 6/6/23
Hot Take: The Future of Life's Call for a Pause on 'Giant AI' - Doomsday or Distraction?
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. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
35:28 5/30/23
Laura Forlano on Feminism, Disability, and the Politics of Technology
In this episode we chat to Laura Forlano, Associate Professor of Design at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology. This is a special episode because Laura reads us some of her work on life as a Type 1 diabetic, or in her words, a disabled cyborg calibrated to an insulin pump. Laura’s writing gives us a different kind of insight into good technology, tech that in her case literally keeps her alive, but can also let you down in alarming ways. 
21:29 5/23/23
The Good Robot LIVE! from Berlin
This special bonus episode was recorded at the AI Anarchies conference in Berlin. We held a workshop exploring with participants what good technology means for them, and why thinking in terms of ‘good technology’ actually limits us. Two amazing participants offered to be interviewed by us, Christina Lu, who at the time was a software engineer at DeepMind and is now a researcher on the Antikythera program and Grace Turtle, a designer, artist, and researcher that uses experimentation and play, like Table Top Games, LARPing, and simulation design to encourage us to transition to more just and sustainable futures. This episode includes an ad for the What Next|TBD podcast. 
27:28 5/9/23

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