Abeba Birhane is a PhD candidate in Cognitive Science in University College Dublin. Her interdisciplinary research, which intersects between embodied cognition, digital technology studies, and critical data science, explores the dynamic and reciprocal relationships between individuals, society and digital technologies. She is a contributor to Aeon Magazine and blogs regularly about cognition, AI, ethics and data science.
Imagine a world where we are able to predict people’s behaviour with precision. A world, for example, where we can tell whether someone is going to a commit crime before they do. A lot of our problems would just disappear. The quest for absolute certainty has been at the top of Western science’s agenda. In a similar fashion, current technological developments tend to strive for generalizability and predictability. We value certainty, stability and uniformity. Whereas most of reality, instead of being orderly and stable is seething with change, disorder and process. People, far from being predictable and predetermined, are complex, social and dynamical beings that inherently exist in a web of relations. This talk discusses how absolute certainty is not only an unattainable goal so far as understanding people and the social world is concerned but also a dangerous state to aspire to.
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