robot empathy and ethics in a jobless future

Perhaps this is a departure from concerns of distributed deliberation, fake news and such. Perhaps not. Here though I begin with the rhetoric of an emerging sub-genre regarding humanity’s slow, dismal apocalypse in the wake of intelligent machines. I offer two examples, one from the New Yorker, “Silicon Valley Has an Empathy Problem” by Om Malik…

distributed deliberation: beyond echo chambers and fake news

If some Americans are slowly rousing to the realization that getting information via social media resulted in a distorted (and sometimes completely false) view of past election, perhaps they might be able to extend that epiphany to recognize that the distortion is ongoing and not limited to presidential politics. It is also not limited to…

pluralism and the nonmodern, nonliberal society

In a New York Times editorial, “The End of Identity Liberalism,” Mark Lilla, a Columbia history professor, makes an argument that runs against much of the discourse I hear from the academic left. I am curious what others think of it. In part I’m writing this to work through my own thoughts on the matter. All…

risk, reward, and revolution in an object-oriented democracy

If you happen to go back and look at my posts from a decade ago (though why would you?), you’d find some very strongly-worded political commentary. Maybe it’s because I’m older or maybe it’s because social media is such a morass of political invective that it just doesn’t interest me anymore as a writer.  That…

On the future openness of the MLA

I’m writing today about two unrelated events–unrelated that is except in that they both concern the MLA. The first is the election of Anne Ruggles Gere, a rhetorician, as second vice-president (which means she will rise in two years to the position of president). The second is an open letter from Eileen Joy, medievalist and…

alt-ac careers and the purposes of humanities doctoral programs

Marc Bousquet has a piece in Inside Higher Ed on the topic of alt-ac careers and the disciplinary-institutional motives of departments and universities in relation to them. I really don’t disagree with him, particularly when he writes: faculty like having graduate programs and, perhaps more to the point, administrators need them. For faculty, grad programs confer…

academic “quit pieces” and related digital flotsom

Before I get into this, I should try to make a few things clear. This post isn’t about the structural problems facing higher education right now (issues of cost and access, the changing cultural-economic role of universities nationally and globally, or shifts in media-information technologies that are reshaping our work). It’s not even about the…

Neoliberal and new liberal arts

In an essay for Harper’s William Deresiewicz identifies neoliberalism as the primary foe of higher education. I certainly have no interest in defending neoliberalism, though it is a rather amorphous, spectral enemy. It’s not a new argument, either. Here are a few passages the give you the spirit of the argument: The purpose of education in…

digital ethics in a jobless future

What would/will the world look like when people don’t need to work or at least need to work far less? Derek Thompson explores this question in a recent Atlantic article, “The World Without Work.” It’s an interesting read, so I recommend it to you. Obviously it’s a complex question, and I’m only taking up a small part…

writing epilogues on the 20th-century university

Terry Eagleton’s recent Chronicle op-ed is making the rounds. It’s a piece with some clever flourishes but with largely familiar arguments. What I think is curious is that the nostalgia for the good old, bad old days describes a university that we would no longer find acceptable. Looking back at the end of the 20th century,…