Social Science Matters

The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is home to a broad range of approaches to social science, all of which we celebrate, from purely theoretical and interpretive research to all manner of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. One of our priorities is to ensure that this exciting social science research connects with the public while showing the relevance of the social sciences to everyday lives and policy. 

Social Science Matters: The Future Series

Social media. Big data. Autonomous robots. Deep learning. Virtual agents. The Internet-of-things. Genetic mapping. Artificial intelligence. These are the tools of today whose possibilities both excite and terrify. Discoveries of the past, from the printing press to germ theory, have radically transformed the world we live in. Today’s cutting-edge technologies transform the way we work, communicate, learn, travel, diagnose and cure diseases, and how we use free time. How do these cascading innovations in an ever-globalized world relate to social change?  And what do the tools we invent say about us as a society?

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."
-Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

This thought-provoking series co-sponsored by SBS and CICS will address these questions. While the intent of technological innovation is generally to improve people’s lives, it also has unintended consequences, both positive and negative. We will invite high-profile speakers to address these consequences and explore how a dialogue between technology innovators and social scientists can help anticipate these risks and develop technologies and social policies to respond to them effectively.  

Starting off with Professor Moshe Vardi’s publictalk on April 5 at 4pm -- we will discuss the growing social inequality related to automationand the use of artificial intelligence. So far, it seems we have decided to decouple job creation from economic growth and allowed the economy to grow even as employment and incomes shrink--but it doesn’t have to happen that way. Pervasive public anxiety around new technologies, political polarization, and shifts away from public trust in science-based expertise will only exacerbate tensions around technology and social change in years to come. 

This speaker series explores how we can live and thrive in a world where social and technological transformation must be considered simultaneously and inseparably.

The series will span the following potential topics:

  • Transparency versus Surveillance: The Promise and the Risks of Big data
  • A.I. and the Future of Education and Work
  • Inclusion and Alienation in an Era of Social Media
  • How to Develop Fairness-Aware Machine Learning Algorithms?
  • Aging and Health Technologies
  • The Ethics of A.I. from Self-Driving Cars to Autonomous Weapons
  • How Is Technology Disrupting Social Inequality and How is it Reinforcing it?
  • Urban Planning and the Promise of Smart Cities
  • Biometrics and Authoritarian Regimes
  • Democracy in the Digital Age

How to Submit a Speaker or Event Suggestion

We welcome suggestions from SBS faculty members for next year’s series. Suggestions are reviewed by the SBS Leadership Council and SBS Chairs. Your nomination can be for a specific speaker or for a panel featuring 2-3 speakers on a particular topic to be debated. Criteria for successful submission are as follows:

  1. The speaker should be a high-profile, scholarly social scientist who is very well known across disciplines.
  2. The proposed event should draw a large multi-disciplinary audience, also attracting students and community members.  
  3. Relevance and importance of speaker/topic
  4. Ability to articulate the contributions of social science in an engaging way
  5. The speaker or event will be co-hosted across at least two SBS departments

Submit A Speaker