Brains, Robots, and Humans; Reflections on Information and the Neurosociety, New Trends in eHumanities

1. Sal Restivo, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 2. Sabrina Weiss, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


March 24, 2011

1. Brains, Robots, and Humans; Reflections on Information and the Neurosociety
Reflections on Information and the Neurosociety Research on brains and robots has not only raised new questions about what the brain is and the artificial intelligence potential of robots but has forced us to reexamine perennial questions about what it means to be human. Based on multi-pronged provocations from sociological theory, neuroscience, philosophy, and social and sociable robotics engineering I have been concerned with what comes next as we challenge and potentially eliminate classical brain/mind, mind/body, brain/body dichotomies. In order to get some purchase on the issues and troubles raised by the coming of the robosapiens and an emerging neurosociety, I will explore the nature and limits of humans and robots, a sociology of the brain, and a new view of how bodies, brains, and social life interact.

Sal Restivo is Professor of sociology, science studies, and information technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is a founding member and former president of the Society for Social Studies of Science, and most recently the editor-in-chief of Science, Technology, and Society: an Encyclopedia (Oxford University Press, 2005), co-author (with Bauchspies and Croissant) of Science, Technology and Society: A Sociological Approach (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005), and author of Red, Black, and Objective: Science, Sociology, and Anarchism (Ashgate, 2011).

2. The Cybermarketplace of Ideas and Skills: An Insider’s Look at Understated Personal Development on the Internet
Tycoon mothers, fangirl newshounds, genderbending bloggers, knights in shining armor who can’t yet vote, and fans who help write the shows they love. Observations of online societies like Livejournal and World of Warcraft suggest rich avenues for further research on identity, interpersonal skills, and community interactions that can be transferred from the cyberspace to “meatspace.”

Sabrina Weiss earned a B.S. degree from Stanford University in Science, Technology, and Society with a focus in biology and bioethics. After serving for a tour in Japan as a Navy officer, she spent several years working with local political and non-profit groups in Seattle, WA. While finishing her M.S. degree in Bioethics from Albany Medical College, she tutored high school students in math and science while coaching high school debaters in philosophical- and value-based debating styles. Sabrina is currently a graduate student in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Science and Technology Studies department and is focusing on topics at the intersection of biology, the neuro- and social sciences, and ethical philosophy.