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Prometheus
Volume 37 Issue 2 June 2021

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Editorial
By Stuart MacDonald In May 2014, Prometheus published one of its occasional debates on innovation, this one about the academic publishing industry. The industry’s product has become less academic knowledge than the indicators of academic performance. These determine the allocation of most of the resources higher education requires, a reality suggested by the debate’s proposition paper, ‘Publisher, be damned! From price gouging to the open road’. The paper’s authors are David Harvie, Geoff Lightfoot, Simon Lilley and Kenneth Weir, all from the centre for philosophy and political economy at what was then Leicester university’s school of management and is now its school of business. The school of management long housed the country’s major centre for research and teaching in critical management. Weir left Leicester for Heriot Watt university a year back; the other three authors face dismissal next month in Leicester university’s purge of critical management. page: 109 - 110 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370201
Paper
By Quan Liu Liu Sanjie is a typical Chinese legendary figure, adapted from folk custom and transformed during many historical and political stages. By comparing the musical film Liu Sanjie with the landscape performing art Impression Liu Sanjie, this paper explores how Liu Sanjie is reconstructed in the Impression to be in accord with contemporary demands (shidaixing). In the film, made during the 1960s, Liu Sanjie was promoted as a heroine fighting against the privileged classes, but in the Impression, her class struggle has been erased and only a harmonious and abstract legend remains. Her ethnicity is promoted by Han elites as not exclusive Zhuang, but shared equally with Han, Miao and Dong ethnicity in an imagined community to propagate a sense of ethnic harmony and unified Chineseness. Her transformation from a realistic character, full of a rebelling spirit, to an abstract and disembodied ‘sense of harmony’, is a complete reinterpretation of a Chinese historical legend. Utilizing a term from Wang Ban (1997), ‘the sublime figure of history’, which refers to an ideology aestheticized by the party state for securing its governance, this paper refers to the bold artistic treatment of Liu Sanjie for cultural exploitation as ‘Liu Sanjie’s sublime’. The paper explores the evolutionary progress of Liu Sanjie from class revolution to art revolution in response to political requirements. The author is a stage-trained performing artist, specialized in both Western opera and Chinese classical and folk singing and dance. He is also a critic and art consultant in the Chinese landscape performing arts industry. These professional roles have allowed privileged access to the top people in this industry. page: 111 – 136 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370202
Paper
By Julia LeMonde News Corp Australia recently initiated a campaign to pressure the Australian government to amend its childhood vaccination policies. In 2015, the government legislated amendments in accord with the campaign’s demands despite criticism from experts in children’s health and vaccine advocacy, research and surveillance. A narrative review was conducted of newsprint articles which featured during the media campaign between 2013 and 2015. Findings indicate that the campaign focused on moral attributes that stigmatised conscientious objector parents as ‘anti-vaxers’, baby-killers, and hippies and loons. The decision to change vaccination legislation is compatible with the creation of a media-manufactured moral panic concerning conscientious objector parents. When deconstructing moral panics, a careful analysis of the roles of different media sectors is important. The alliance between News Corp Australia and Australian politicians to introduce new vaccination legislation represents an innovation in health policy formation which illustrates how expert opinion on public health policies can be sidelined. page: 137 – 154 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370203
Paper
By Michael Flavin This paper combines the theory of disruptive innovation with Foucault’s concept of the episteme, in order to analyse the extent to which the integration of Foucauldian analysis clarifies understandings of disruptive innovation; the process by which innovation happens; and its applications in higher education. The theory of disruptive innovation is summarized, as is the episteme, and the idea of skeuomorphic design is used to link disruptive innovation and the episteme, showing how innovation can happen. Disruptive innovation, the episteme and skeuomorphic design are applied to three, specific technologies – Second Life, the massive open online course and the virtual learning environment – arguing that all three offer little or no innovation. The paper contributes to studies on innovation in technology-enhanced learning by applying a novel theoretical framework with the potential for new and predictive insights. The paper links disruptive innovation with Foucault’s concept of the episteme and with skeuomorphic design to argue for the emergence of a new, neoliberal episteme in which technology itself is central. page: 155 – 169 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370204
Book Review
By Ryan Calo The New Breed: What Our History with Animals Reveals about Our Future with Robots byKate Darling (2021) 336 pp., £20 (hardback) Henry Holt & Co., New York, ISBN 978-1250296108 I read recently that a flock of trained pigeons can be as accurate at detecting breast cancer in mammograms as a human pathologist. Over the centuries, pigeons have carried private messages and delivered drugs. They have been used to spy and, on rare occasions, to kill. A pigeon was once awarded the croix de guerre, an honour bestowed on foreign soldiers by the French Army, after saving the lives of nearly 200 Americans in the final weeks of World War I. page: 170 – 172 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370205
Book Review
By Antoine Bousquet War and Algorithm edited by Max Liljefors, Gregor Noll and Daniel Stor (2019) 232pp., £28 (paperback) Rowman & Littlefield, London, ISBN 978-1-78661-364-6 War and Algorithm offers a concise but thought-provoking ensemble of texts reflecting on the emerging world of war in the age of high-speed computation and artificial intelligence. The book brings together three scholars from the disciplines of philosophy, law and art history and (as the introduction makes clear) is the result of an extended period of spirited exchange and collective exploration that is manifest in its thematic coherence. The text is organized along a tripartite structure of understanding, law and vision, distributed among the editors in accordance with their respective specialisms. Yet the three core chapters resonate richly with each other in their engagement with some profound questions raised by the present transformation of war. The individual responses to each chapter, solicited from three further contributors, are less well integrated but remain nevertheless stimulating in their own right. page: 173 – 179 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370206
Book Review
By Adam Briggle and Tang Yueming Nietzschean Meditations: Untimely Thoughts at the Dawn of the Transhuman Era, Steve Fuller (2019) 240pp., CHF108 (hardback), Schweiz, Schwabe Verlag, Basel, ISBN: 978-3796540608 In The Gay Science (1882, 1887, para. 125), Friedrich Nietzsche tells the parable of the madman who lights a lantern in the bright morning hours and screams ‘I seek God!’ A crowd assembles at this spectacle and mocks the madman. He goes on to tell the people ‘God is dead . . . we have killed him.’ Now repulsed and astonished, the mob is speechless. The madman throws his lantern to the ground and the breaking glass pierces the silence. ‘I have come too early,’ he says, ‘my time is not yet.’ The death of God is news that has not yet reached the people, even though they are the murderers: ‘This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars – and yet they have done it themselves.’ page: 180 – 186 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370207
Book Review
By Madeleine Chalmers AI Narratives: A History of Imaginative Thinking about Intelligent Machines edited by Stephen Cave, Kanta Dihal and Sarah Dillon (2020) 448pp., £55 (hardback) Oxford University Press, Oxford, ISBN: 9780198846666 Debates within industry about the risks of developing technologies faster than we can conceptualize their ramifications have permeated mainstream culture, coinciding with a turn in the humanities towards schools of thought which challenge notions of human exceptionalism. Based at the University of Cambridge, the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (CFI) has as its stated mission ‘to bring together the best of human intelligence so that we can make the most of machine intelligence’. It is commendable to see the humanities and creative practices being given their full due and highlighted as a key field for investigation within this remit. This is the first booklength output from the AI narratives project at the CFI – and it is an admirable beginning. page: 187 – 190 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370208
Book Review
By Ekkehard Ernst The Economics of Artificial Intelligence: An Agenda edited by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb (2019) 648pp., $US150 (hardback) University of Chicago Press, Chicago, ISBN 9780226613338 Discussions on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on society and the economy have become paramount. With the rapid rise in patents and applications around machine learning and big data since the early 2010s, observers, analysts and policy makers increasingly wonder about the speed, scope and scale at which AI will induce change. Combining the numerical power of modern computers with the ubiquity of data covering all forms of our economic, social and political lives, and using sophisticated mathematical and statistical techniques to extract key patterns of human behaviour have fuelled the imagination of many – technologists, economists, politicians and social engineers alike. Extreme views – both pessimistic and optimistic – seem to dominate the current debate, including the possibility of yet another return to an ‘AI winter’ (a term coined at a workshop of scientists back in 1956), referring to extended periods in the past of slow or no scientific and technical progress in AI. page: 191 – 197 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370209
Book Review
By Amy Gonzales The Digital Divide, Jan van Dijk (2020) 208pp., £18 (paperback) Polity Press, Cambridge, ISBN: 978-1-509-53445-6 Publication of The Digital Divide could not be more timely. The 2020 global pandemic has reframed understanding of dependence on digital technology across the socio-economic spectrum. Being without technology in this moment in history has a resonance that could not have been predicted, even if it could, to some degree, have been avoided. From this unfortunate vantage point, Van Dijk’s Digital Divide carries a new level of urgency for readers and holds new opportunities for scholars who may be doubly motivated to understand the factors that contribute to digital inequalities and the solutions that may mitigate them. In addition to this divide laid bare by the pandemic, I will also point out other ways this book holds particular relevance for our day. page: 198 – 199 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370210
Book Review
By Magnus Gulbrandsen Critical Studies of Innovation: Alternative Approaches to the Pro-innovation Bias edited by Benoît Godin and Dominique Vinck (2017), 352pp., £105 (hardback) Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, ISBN: 978 1 78536 696 3 Critical Studies of Innovation, as the title indicates, seeks a new approach for studying innovation in response to what its editors and authors see as the dominating perspective that ‘innovation is good, always good’ (p.1 and elsewhere). This pro-innovation bias leads to a number of challenges in policy, management and research, and to the neglect of many important innovation-related phenomena, such as failure, de-adaption, resistance, withdrawal and problematic societal effects. page: 200 – 204 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370211
Book Review
By William B. Meyer Ecomodernism: Technology, Politics and the Climate Crisis by Jonathan Symons (2019), 224pp., £50 (hardback), £15 (paperback) Polity Press, Cambridge, ISBN: 978-1-509-53120-2 Ecomodernism is a highly ambitious book. Jonathan Symons, a senior lecturer in politics and international relations at Australia’s Macquarie University, defines and defends an ‘ecomodernist’ understanding of the relations between the environment and human society. He then uses that framework to construct a programme for responding to the most threatening, far-reaching, and seemingly intractable of contemporary environmental problems: global climate change resulting from the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. To any reader who accepts current categories, paradigms and alignments as given, the book may seem hopelessly muddled and self-contradictory. But the reader who approaches Ecomodernism with an open mind may find that, by the end, it is the accepted categories that seem inconsistent. Indeed, they may seem worse than that, actual barriers to an accurate understanding of one of the world’s most urgent challenges and to an effective response to it. page: 205 – 210 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370212
Book Review
By Fabio Tollon Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI edited by Markus Dubber, Frank Pasquale and Sunit Das (2020) 896pp., $US185 (hardback) $US40 (paperback) Oxford University Press, New York, ISBN 978-0-19-006739-7 There has been an explosion of research concerned with the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI). This work has been motivated by both theoretical and practical concerns. Theoretically, there is still no universally agreed definition of AI, nor do we fully understand exactly what an ‘ethics’ of AI should entail. Is ethics separate from the development of AI systems, or ought it to be internal to this process? Are questions of robot rights category mistakes, or do they represent a further justified expansion of our moral circle? Have we always been cyborgs, or does the advent of AI usher in a new age of human enhancement (or perhaps obsolescence)? Practically, there are pressing moral issues that arise in our use of data-driven AI systems. Do our algorithms mirror and reinforce our own biases, reinscribing discriminatory power structures of racial and gendered hierarchies? With the increasing ubiquity of AI in our everyday lives, is there a risk of runaway AI, where we lose meaningful control? And what about questions of granularity: does an ethics of AI look the same from a computer science, engineering, cognitive science or legal perspective? If you are seeking answers to these and other questions, Dubber, Pasquale and Das’s Oxford Handbook of Ethics of AI will prove itself uniquely illuminating. page: 211 – 215 Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 2 SKU: 370213