Prometheus: Vol 37, No 4 (2021)

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Editorial
By Stuart Macdonald We recently received a request from an academic whose book review was awaiting publication in Prometheus. A colleague had told him that Prometheus is a critical journal. As the academic’s annual output was being assessed by his university, he thought he had better withdraw his review – and did. Academics have become accustomed to the carrots offered in return for approved behaviour, basically agreeing with everyone else. Rewards come in the form of easier publication in journals with high impact factors, as bonuses and promotion recognizing this publication success, as ready citation in other papers which also have nothing new to say, and as research resources awarded to explore yet again what is already known. Such carrots can be very considerable both in themselves and in their contribution to intellectual decay. But when the system passes from carrot to stick, punishing those who say anything contentious, a line is crossed; we journey from preferring to publish what brings seductive returns to burning books. It is said that only pet rabbits eat carrots: wild rabbits won’t touch them. page: 319-320 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370401
Paper
By Sonali Gupta Business incubators are a favourite policy tool used by governments worldwide to stimulate and support entrepreneurship. However, little is known about the challenges in operationalizing an incubator. Scholars have highlighted the lack of access to reliable incubator data, the politically charged environments in which incubators operate and the tendency of incubator management and policymakers to provide positive self-evaluation results to demonstrate the success of such publicly funded initiatives. This paper offers auto-ethnographic insights into operating a business incubator in India. By verbalizing tacit knowledge acquired through personal experiences and elaborating the trials and tribulations of running an incubator, the paper sheds light on an incubator’s structural properties, functions and operational dilemmas. It shifts the conversation away from the notion of the incubator as a well-defined entity – having a prescribed model and path to success as defined by its sponsors – toward an organization that needs to experiment, learn from its mistakes and change course, much like the startups it claims to support. To maintain anonymity, pseudonyms are used for the incubator and all the people referred to in the paper. page: 321-339 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370402
Paper
By John Paul Kawalek This paper concerns the challenges that face university-based business schools. These challenges are concerned with their ability to maintain expectations in educational and research terms, whilst at the same time making impact in social contexts. This paper outlines how impact might be informed by a heightened awareness of the difference between pure and practical reasoning. This was a key concern of Immanuel Kant, who laid the foundation of a philosophical genre which, in this paper, is termed ‘practical reasoning’. The paper contrasts some of the most fundamental ideas of practical reasoning with other forms used to underpin the activities of contemporary business schools. The paper presents an argument about how the methodological, epistemological and philosophical insights drawn from this genre may have relevance to the contemporary requirement for social impact in university-based business schools. page: 340-352 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370403
Paper
By Wesley M. Moss, Phillip G.H. Nichols, Kevin J. Foster, Megan H. Ryan and Andrew L. Guzzomi Farmers are often overlooked and undervalued as sources of innovation, but can be powerful drivers of ingenuity and development. We evaluate historical developments in the Australian subterranean clover seed-production industry as a case study of farmer-driven innovation. Subterranean clover seed machinery patents (75% of which were patented by farmers) are analysed using conventional innovation frameworks, such as the theory of inventive problem solving (TRIZ), to extract lessons for supporting farmer-driven innovation. The small scale of this industry, compared with mainstream cereal-cropping industries and the isolation of farmers, provides analogous lessons for agriculture in developing countries. Economic drivers are important in enabling farmer innovation and the value proposition for developing new inventions must be clear to justify the time and expense. Farmers are different from firms and their on-farm knowledge and experience can form an essential part of innovation. Drivers of innovation also differ, with farmers less likely to attempt to commercialize inventions. Farmers can also be hesitant to share their inventions, instead holding them as trade secrets in competitive industries. Support and collaboration are needed from government and researchers to assist in commercialization or dissemination of useful innovations and to prevent knowledge from being confined to a localized farmer or region. Advances in agriculture require farmer input in research and development, but the benefits will be greater if farmers are enabled to be drivers of innovation. page: 353-370 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370404
Review Essay
By Antti Tarvainen Silicon Valley has emerged as the key metaphor of the innovation-led economic development in the 21st century. As the Valley’s technology monopolies and utopias expand, there is a growing need for critical histories that help to ground and contextualize the futures that are spreading from San Francisco Bay. In this review essay, I suggest that a settler-colonial approach offers interesting possibilities for the creation of such histories. To demonstrate how such an approach works, I develop a settler-colonial reading of Margaret O’Mara’s recent book The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America (2019). By critically analysing the key metaphors in O’Mara’s celebrated book, the global and violent face of the Valley becomes visible. The settler-colonial approach, I conclude, offers one possible analytical approach to breaking the stranglehold of America-centred understanding typical of the histories of Valley. page: 371-381 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370405
Book Review
By Mandi Astola Next Generation Ethics: Engineering a Better Society is an anthology featuring short chapters on the ethics of engineering, business and technology, intended for a broad audience. The 35 men and eight women who contribute to the volume are mostly ethicists, engineers, lawyers or policy specialists based at universities or technology companies. In terms of topics, the book is heavy on artificial intelligence (AI), data and digital technology, but such topics as management fads, the construction industry and the oil and gas industry are featured too. This is by no means just a review of the ethics of engineering, but also an overview of ethical concerns in engineering practice. It is a broad and comprehensive learning and teaching book to use and discuss rather than a research book to cite. page: 382-384 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370406
Book Review
By Francisco de Elizalde Algorithms and Law, edited by Martin Ebers and Susana Navas (2020) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 297pp., hardback £85, ISBN: 9781108424820. Law sails as tankers do: steadily and with difficulty in changing direction. The relative inflexibility of law enhances legal certainty as an essential requirement for the protection of rights and, eventually, the evolution of societies. Legal thought and legal analysis usually march at the same prudent pace. However, the technological disruption that artificial intelligence (AI) brings has created turmoil. The ‘law tanker’ suddenly started to behave as a dinghy in a hurricane. An institution as accustomed to serious, long and technical legal drafting as the European Parliament introduced a legal instrument with references to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Pygmalion and the story of Prague’s Golem (see European Parliament, 2017). The legal debate tried to respond to unusual questions on the feasibility of an ‘electronic personality’ for robots to address liability – whether the phenomenon should be tackled with ethical (i.e., not legally enforceable) rules instead of regulation or even if an entire new legal framework was needed for AI. page: 385-386 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370407
Book Review
By Laurence Diver Algorithmic Regulation edited by Karen Yeung and Martin Lodge (2019) Oxford University Press, Oxford, hardback £74, 294pp. ISBN: 9780198838494 Is regulation an end in itself? Is it (or should it be) a normative concern? Does regulation encompass law, overlap it or is it distinct phenomenon from law? And what vision of law and governance should it represent? These questions have swirled in this domain for decades and are contested both inside and outside the field. But with the rise of the ‘algorithm’, an often-misunderstood and muchabused term, we are seeing – as Lodge and Menneckin point out in chapter 8 – a flattening of the discussion. In this flattening process, many of the political and conceptual nuances of the field are collapsed under the weight of a cybernetic, neoliberal model of governance that views citizens as ‘end-users’, ‘customers’ and ‘rule-takers’, rather than full participants in a societal structure that seeks, even if it doesn’t always or even often succeed, to empower them as the authors of their own inter-connected lives. page: 387-393 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370408
Book Review
By Molly Land Digital Witness: Using Open Source Information for Human Rights Investigation, Documentation, and Accountability edited by Sam Dubberley, Alexa Koenig, Daragh Murray (2020), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 384pp., paperback £30, ISBN: 9780198836070 Digital Witness, a new collection edited by Sam Dubberley, Alexa Koenig and Daragh Murray, is a book that defines a field. The potential of user-generated content to document human rights abuses has been recognized since George Holliday filmed the Los Angeles police beating Rodney King – a moment that catalysed the foundation of Witness, a global organization dedicated to empowering communities to document human rights violations. However, it is only within the last decade, with the widespread availability of mobile phones equipped with cameras and internet speeds that allow sharing of digital images, that the potential of user-generated documentation has become a reality. page: 394-396 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370409
Book Review
By Carl Mitcham Creativity, Problem Solving and Aesthetics in Engineering: Today’s Engineers Turning Dreams into Reality by David Blockley (2019) Springer, Cham, hardback US$60, pp.xvii + 225, ISBN: 9783030382575 Philosophy for Engineering: Practice, Context, Ethics, Models, Failure by Priyan Dias (2019) Springer, Singapore, paperback £45, pp.xiii + 124, ISBN: 9789811512704 For more than 200 years since English-speaking engineering emerged in the late 1700s, it has mostly remained an unconscious presence in philosophy as well as in the larger culture – despite the fact that modernity is fundamentally dependent on engineering and is the first engineered lifeworld in human history. Insofar as engineering has been thought, it has mostly been subordinate to the science which it at once makes possible and puts to use in transforming its design and production of technologies; engineering has remained culturally subservient to the knowledge creation it enables and its production of ideally useful and convenient outputs. Together these two volumes by civil engineers in England and Sri Lanka are significant efforts from the engineering community to address the manifest cultural lacunae, both within and without engineering. page: 397-403 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370410
Book Review
By Carolin Kemper Advanced Introduction to Law and Artificial Intelligence by Woodrow Barfield and Ugo Pagallo (2020) Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 208pp., hardback £85, ISBN 978 178990 5144. This is a condensation of the same authors’ Research Handbook on the Law of Artificial Intelligence (2018), which presents legal issues arising from the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) to a broad audience. Barfield and Pagallo wrote this abridged version to offer an easily accessible introduction to law and AI for law students, legal practitioners and non-legal experts. page: 404-408 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370411
Book Review
By Leah Henrickson Right/Wrong: How Technology Transforms our Ethics by Juan Enriquez (2020) MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 304pp., $US25 (hardback) $US17 (paperback) ISBN: 9780262044424 In the American sitcom The Good Place (2016–20), a group of characters – all deceased – attempt to upgrade themselves from ‘the bad place’ to ‘the good place’. Among the group is a moral philosophy professor, Chidi Anagonye. Chidi offers lessons on ethics and quips about the need for ethical behaviour when the characters repeatedly make questionable decisions that satisfy their hedonistic tendencies. He is framed as a stick-in-the-ethical-mud, and is regularly reminded that ‘everyone hates moral philosophy professors’. By the show’s conclusion, however, it is attention to ethics that saves the characters from the bad place, and (spoiler alert!) everyone dies happily ever after. page: 409-413 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 4 SKU: 370412