UMass Amherst Presents Fall Slate for Social Science Matters: The Future Series

Clockwise from top left: Ece Kamar, Milind Tambe, Virginia Eubanks and Paul DiMaggio
Clockwise from top left: Ece Kamar, Milind Tambe, Virginia Eubanks and Paul DiMaggio

AMHERST, Mass. – As part of their ongoing Social Science Matters: The Future Series, the University of Massachusetts Amherst's College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS), College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) and Center for Smart and Connected Society will co-present a slate of events during the fall on this year’s topic of “Technological Shifts and Social Change.”

At 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, Henry Farrell, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, will discuss “Information and the Global Liberal Order: How the Policy Regime That America Built Was Turned Against It” in 420 Thompson Hall. Up until the very recent past, Farrell says the U.S. assumed that the liberal international information order that it had helped create served American political interests. Many now argue that open information flows have damaged U.S. democracy, while self-regulated U.S. firms seem out of control and international institutions look entirely inadequate to supporting security and global order. Farrell will explain what happened, why things went wrong for the U.S., and how best to understand the current situation of American policy.

On Oct. 15, Paul DiMaggio, professor of sociology at New York University, will present “Interaction Ritual Threads: Conversational Persistence in an Online Discussion at a Large Corporation.” This event will take place at 3:30 p.m. in Old Chapel, and will be preceded by a reception at 2:30 p.m. DiMaggio will discuss how key concepts of Randall Collins’ Interaction Ritual Chains theory, which was based on face-to-face settings, can be applied to modern communication in the online world.

Artificial intelligence is the focus of “AI in the Open World: Discovering Blind Spots of AI,” presented at noon in 151 Computer Science Building on Oct. 26 by Ece Kamar, senior researcher at Microsoft Research’s adaptive systems and interaction group. Kamar will argue that hybrid systems that combine the strengths of machine and human intelligence are key to overcoming the limitations of AI algorithms and developing reliable systems.

The series returns to Old Chapel on Nov. 8, as Virginia Eubanks, associate professor of political science at the University at Albany, will present “Automating Austerity - Digital Diversion in Unequal America,” at noon. The author of Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor and Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age, Eubanks has worked in community technology and economic justice movements for two decades.

Artificial intelligence will again take center stage in 151 Computer Science Building on Nov. 15, when Milind Tambe, Helen N. and Emmett H. Jones Professor in Engineering and founding co-director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society at the University of Southern California, presents “AI for Social Good: Decision Aids for Countering Terrorism, Extinction, Homelessness,” at noon. Tambe believes that with the maturation of AI and multi-agent systems research, society has a tremendous opportunity to direct these advances towards addressing complex problems, and will focus the talk on the problems of countering terrorism, conserving wildlife, and addressing homelessness and public health in low-resource communities.

Finally, on Nov. 30, David Autor, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the leading labor economists in the world, will present “Automation, Jobs and Shared Prosperity: What Should—and Shouldn’t —We Be Worried About?,” at noon in Old Chapel. A faculty research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and editor in chief of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, his current fields of specialization include human capital and earnings inequality, labor market impacts of technological change and globalization, disability insurance and labor supply, and temporary help and other intermediated work arrangements.

All events for the Social Science Matters series are free and open to the public. A complete list of events in the series, including future events, as well as full details for those listed above, can be found here.