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Pandora's Bot: technology and culture

Updated: Feb 21

Pandora's Bot logo: blue background, stylized black GPU with stylized white ghosts emerging

This is Pandora's Bot, a place where I consider technology and how we relate to it, in higher ed and beyond.

Not surprisingly, the impetus for this blog and my focus so far has primarily been on so-called artificial intelligence, a term that includes generative systems as well as algorithmic systems that involve machine learning. I am an educator and researcher who has been thinking and writing and teaching about technology and culture for some time; but with the pace of change, especially since the launch of ChatGPT in November of 2022, I wanted a space to think through and share some ideas without waiting for the somewhat more stately pace of academic peer-reviewed publication. That said, at this point, the blog is free and my “day job” takes most of my time, so my posting is likely to be sporadic.

Another quick note: I’ve recently (January 2024) updated my Substack’s image (above), in part because I think a simpler image scales more easily across platforms and contexts. In lieu of the “box” of the original Pandora’s box, I’ve instead drawn a graphic intended to represent a simplified GPU. In Hesiod’s version of the story, the jar (later a box) released many evils, with hope alone remaining in the vessel. Our colloquial sense of opening Pandora’s box is more ambivalent, like opening “a can of worms,” with the suggestion that the contents might be a blessing or a curse but that there’s no putting whatever is released back in the box: we live with the consequences.

 A note on the image below, which my second image for the blog and which I wanted to preserve. For my first blog image, I had prompted NightCafe with “a silver robot creating a book.” It returned four images—all female, and all anthropomorphic. Like many, I believe that anthropomorphizing AI is both inevitable and deeply problematic. I also think it’s an apt image because much generative AI is built—generally without consent—on human creations, many of which themselves anthropomorphize AI. (See Better Images of AI for alternatives to the shiny humanoid female robot.)

I initially chose to use a generative AI image for the blog ironically, but in solidarity with our fellow human creative artists, I asked my teen artist daughter to make me a new image. That robot (below) has a visor to suggest “reading” without “seeing” (her idea).

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