Prometheus: Vol 37, No 1 (2021)

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Editorial
By Stuart MacDonald Prometheus is now an open access journal. On the face of it, this is excellent news: open access should give easier access to those who want to read the material published in Prometheus and so a larger readership to those who write it. Access to everything – including the complete backlist of Prometheus material from 1983 – is now free. Access to recent parts of the Prometheus backlist is available from JSTOR until the end of 2021, and access to other parts is available on the website of our previous publisher, Taylor & Francis. page: 5 - 7 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370101
Paper
By Felicity Wood This paper examines the ‘fetishism of numbers’ (Gudeman, 1998, p.1) that has taken hold in restructured, market-oriented institutions of higher education. As all areas of academic life have been rendered down to the quantifiable, and university environments have become dominated by the rituals of counting, numbers have been imbued with a potency of almost preternatural proportions. The points of comparison between the power ascribed to the numerical in diverse mystical, magical practices and the overriding significance accorded to numbers in restructured universities are explored. When the near-obsessive focus on numbers is viewed as a form of fetishism, some of the reasons why numbers have been elevated to a position of excessive importance come to the fore, as does the illogical nature of such reasoning. Although numbers have been valorized on account of their ostensible accuracy, transparency, objectivity and impartiality, this study contends that the present-day fetishism of numbers in higher education is neither rational nor practical. Neither does it ensure fairness and accuracy. Instead, it stems from and fosters delusion, deception, inequity and irrationality, vanity and greed. page: 8 - 26 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370102
Paper
By Johanna Lauri In Swedish government discourse, social entrepreneurship and social innovation have come to be articulated as the solutions to a wide array of societal challenges and social problems. Within this discourse of social innovation, gender equality is articulated as a key determinant in conquering all societal challenges defined in the UN’s Agenda 2030. The aim of this paper is to analyse the Swedish government’s discourse on social innovation, and how it intertwines with gender equality in select government texts and media material. The analysis starts from the assertion that the dominant discourse on social innovation and social entrepreneurs is part of generating the possibilities and limits of social change. Earlier research on social innovation discourse has shown a strong bias towards private market solutions, and that social innovation has become an essential trait in the neoliberal reforming of the state. Because of their particular influence, governments’ public endorsement of social entrepreneurs and social innovation in their work is one of the factors shaping the understanding of what social change and gender equality are and how they can be achieved. The analysis shows that the government discourse of social innovation produces an understanding of businesses as having a strong desire and capacity for social change and an altruistic agency. From a discursive point of view, this could be read as if the public sector is lacking such qualities and thus the responsibility for social change is placed in the hands of private corporations. Social change and gender equality are hence made intelligible within an economic logic, equating social change with doing business and gender equality with making profit. Gender equality is thus articulated through the discourse of social innovation, as a means to an end. page: 27 - 43 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370103
Paper
By Jennifer Tann Much has been written on change management in the organization, and on the roles and expertise involved. But the change agent, whether internal or external to the organization, has received less attention. Change agents are characterized by a low boredom threshold; they need change to be energized and they may not fit in. This paper introduces examples of an academic change agent’s activities in different contexts and the effects of change agent interventions. Elusive, the change agent moves on, or out, once the change has been initiated. page: 44 - 53 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370104
Paper
By Michael B. Charles, Neal Ryan, David Tuffley, David Noble and Robin Stonecash Australia, despite its G20 status, has not been performing as well in innovation in high-technology sectors as its educational levels and sustained growth would suggest. Australia has found it difficult to emerge from an economy based on resources and agriculture to a services economy based on knowledge and the application of technology. Several reasons have been put forward over the years. This study considers one reason that has not been considered in any detail – culture and national identity. In this paper, we look closely at a number of artefacts of popular culture from the late 1800s to the present day (such as art, poetry, song and film). These continue to underpin Australia’s national identity, despite the multicultural and multiethnic nature of modern Australia. This study argues that the current Australian attitude to work, technology and innovation is strongly rooted in the egalitarian and anti-authoritarian ethos associated with what has been termed the ‘Australian legend’ or the ‘pioneer legend’. A national discourse with emphasis on hyper-masculine hard work as opposed to education and innovation has favoured policies to assist the resource and agricultural sectors of the economy, rather than sectors capable of creating greater value. page: 54 - 68 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370105
Book Review
By Ronald Leenes AI Ethics by Mark Coeckelbergh (2020) MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 248pp., $US15.95 (paperback) ISBN: 9780262538190 In the late 1980s, I got into artificial intelligence (AI) in the final stages of my study at Twente University. This was the era of symbolic AI, and although some people had ambitious ideas and projects (Douglas Lenat’s cyc project, for instance), many were engaged with developing mundane rule-based expert systems (like me). Others were finding out that many things we humans take for granted (like moving around in a room without bumping into things or picking up an egg without breaking it) are actually hard for a machine. There was much enthusiasm at the time about the prospect of artificial intelligence. This was the era where computing became affordable and slowly more powerful, albeit that computer memory for most researchers was measured in kilobytes and disk space in megabytes. The second AI Spring would surely evolve into a bright AI Summer. page: 69 - 73 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370106
Book Review
By Juan M. del Nido Assetization: Turning Things into Assets in Technoscientific Capitalism, edited by Kean Birch and Fabian Muniesa (2020) MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 338pp., $US40 (paperback) ISBN 9780262539173 Contrary to common belief, it is not the commodity but the asset that defines capitalism today. An asset is not a thing, or a matter of substance, but rather a logical and economic form given to something – a piece of land, a patent, a human emotion, traffic through a website – in order to own or control it or its properties as a revenue stream. Assetization is about not just extending accounting categories and the logics of capitalization and accrual to new relations, but also a socially transformative process generating new forms of ownership, control and revenue, and new subjects and subjectivities to inhabit them. Its theme is social constructivism: assets are made, not born, and conversely, at least in principle, anything can be turned into an asset. page: 74 - 79 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370107
Book Review
By Jenneke Evers Privacy is Power: Why and How you Should Take Back Control of Your Data by Carissa Véliz (2020) Bantam, London, 288pp., £15 (hardback) ISBN: 9781787634046 Privacy at the Margins by Scott Skinner-Thompson (2020) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 220pp., £25 (paperback) ISBN: 9781316632635 We all know that 2020 was in many ways a terrifying year. Not only did we have to live through a pandemic, we also remember the violent ways that Black Lives Matter protesters were quelled. Those working in privacy law or ethics will probably remember 2020 as the year that a new infrastructure was developed: the contact tracing apps. Others, engaged in civil rights, will remember the surveillance of Black Lives Matter members in the US. Two recent books, published within a month of each other in September and October 2020, engage with both types of surveillance. Carissa Véliz uncovers in Privacy is Power how our data are used by high-technology companies and governments, and treats in more detail why we should be wary of contact tracing apps. On the other hand, Scott Skinner-Thompson examines how the privacy of marginalized communities (such as black, gay, trans and religious communities) is often violated and proposes a new way of understanding privacy. page: 80 - 85 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370108
Book Review
By Stanislav Ivanov The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation by Carl Benedikt Frey (2019) Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 465pp., $US30 (hardback) ISBN: 978-0-691-17279-8 Carl Benedikt Frey takes us on a historical journey through several centuries of technological progress to help us understand the political economy of technology, and its impacts on the nature of work, the labour market, the incomes of human employees, capital accumulation, economic development and social (in)equality. The book consists of 13 chapters grouped into five parts that shed light on technological progress before the industrial revolutions (Part I), during the first (Part II), second (Part III) and third (Part IV) industrial revolutions, and in the forthcoming age of artificial intelligence and robotics (Part V). Frey discusses how technological progress was blocked or stimulated by political elites and why populations resisted or embraced new technologies. He emphasizes the fact that attitudes towards technology depend on its impact on people’s livelihoods and wellbeing. The first industrial revolution in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was driven largely by factory-based technologies that were replacing human employees, thus causing resistance and social unrest. The second industrial revolution brought technologies to people’s homes. The decades that followed it were the period of a growing middle class and improved quality of life for significant portions of the population, who showed little resistance to technology. After World War II, computers and industrial automation started to eliminate many blue- and whitecollar jobs. The newly created jobs were highly geographically concentrated. Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics raise additional challenges and threaten to replace many employees in the future. They are forcing governments to look for various solutions to the social and economic problems that automation is causing. page: 86 - 90 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370109
Book Review
By Sergei Nirenburg Artificial Intelligence: Modern Magic or Dangerous Future? by Yorick Wilks (2019) Icon Books, London, 176pp., £9 (paperback) ISBN: 9781785785160 Artificial intelligence has left the worlds of academia and the research laboratory and spread to the worlds of business and public policy. The past several decades have seen many technological advances that have offered ever more capable and convenient prosthetic and orthotic devices that have simplified a lot of everyday tasks, saved a lot of human effort and in many cases done better than humans. This progress has, more often than not, been attributed to advances in AI. So, it is not surprising that AI has become a staple in the output of mass media. This avalanche of news is driven in very large part by public fascination with technology that seems to defy imagination, as well as by the frisson of doomsaying prophecies of machines taking over the world. In his recent book, Artificial Intelligence: Modern Magic or Dangerous Future?, Yorick Wilks presents concise and cogent arguments why AI is not modern magic and why it should not be feared. page: 91 - 94 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370110
Book Review
By Eric G. Swedin Designing Babies: How Technology is Changing the Ways we Create Children by Robert L. Klitzman (2019) Oxford University Press, New York, 344pp., $US20 (hardback) ISBN: 9780190054472 A common trope in futurism is that, just as the twentieth century has often been characterized as the century of physics, so the twenty-first century will probably be characterized by historians as the century of biology. The first test tube baby, created through in vitro fertilization, was born in 1978 in the United Kingdom. A pair of genetically engineered babies was recently born in China. Physicians specializing in helping infertile couples to have children now flourish in a multi-million dollar industry. page: 95 - 96 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370111
Book Review
By Sonja Utz Relating through Technology: Advances in Personal Relationships by Jeffrey A. Hall (2020) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 239pp., £85 (hardback) ISBN 978-1-10848330-8 Jeffrey Hall’s Relating through Technology. Advances in Personal Relationships is part of the series on advancing personal relationships edited by Christopher Agnew, John Caughlin, Raymond Knee and Terri Orbuch. A glance at prior volumes in the series reveals a focus on different types of relationships (e.g., close relationships, intimate relationships, marriages) or, more often, on specific psychological processes in relationships, such as power, intimacy, social influence or attribution processes. None of the books focuses on technology in general or on a specific technology. This is surprising considering that much of our daily communication these days occurs via technology – WhatsApp messages, voice calls, video chats, posts on social media platforms. A book on the role of technology in relationship maintenance is desperately needed. page: 97 - 102 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1 SKU: 370112