Thought's on STEM? And Cool/Scary new Tech


#1

I’m currently doing a PhD in physics and am using some machine-learning stuff in my research project. I totally agree with what I’ve heard from Austin and Danielle about how blind trust in science is obviously NOT the correct mindset to have. I DO think, however, that one thing STEM does really well (if taught properly) is teach people how to apply the scientific method (i.e. testing and validating a hypothesis with the help of research and experiments). And I think this is a skill that can be applied to all sorts of situations in real life. I do NOT think that priority should be given to STEM over non-STEM fields, and I am incredibly lucky to have a close relationship with music and art through my family. I super believe that this balance is necessary and helpful for keeping perspective and maintain ethical standards when doing research. I’d be interested in any thoughts on the future of STEM education, as my current life goal is to become a STEM professor at a teaching (not research-focused) university in the U.S.

At the same time, I am morbidly fascinated with the direction in which we are headed. Here’s some stuff I posted a while back in another forum, curious to see what you guys think? Like if you were to take these headlines together you might think we got some Real Deal androids comin’ our way soon (although soon is probably decades from how, but definitely within our lifetimes). I’d be interested to catch your thoughts and see if y’all have any articles/videos of a related nature to share.


#2

I’m def not a STEMboy but as Important If True has taught me, it’s very fun to talk about and be afraid of and or be horny for robots.


#3

LOL. I think this calls for a sexiest robots in video games thread.


#4

Chibi Robo, thats the entire thread, and all you need


#5

and if you absolutely MUST have more then I suppose I’ll give you,

Metal Sonic


#6

Oh oops. I already made the thread :sweat_smile:


#7

stemlord here with the stemleaks

before they give you a bachelors of science u have to declare that you’re horny for asimo

didnt hear it from me


#8

Agree with everything you said. I want an android now.


#9

Guys, I really do appreciate the responses, but I’m actually going for some serious discussion about STEM education here. Or some of your own videos/articles/thoughts/experiences regarding new technology.


#10

Me too kinda?!?!? But if one appeared at my door tomorrow morning, I’d probably be in a state of extreme fear.


#11

I’m super curious to hear what you’re working on Trim! I’m doing a physics PhD myself, which amounts to mostly linear algebra but I’m planning on taking a Machine Learning course just for the interest.

I’m kind of similarly a scientific black sheep in an otherwise english and sociology focused family and I’m very very grateful for that perspective outside the bubble, especially if you’re in academia it almost encourages you to encase yourself in the field to the exclusion of other things. That said, in my experience maybe 7/10 physicists have been lovely and conscientious people so I have hope for the future as long as a few of them end up in the 4% with permanent positions :grimacing:

As a sidenote, quantum information is my field and I’m intrigued by that story though the headline is horrid. The obvious thing that’s kind of wrong with it is what aspect of the state is teleporting; nothing in this scheme seems to suggest to me they’d be teleporting anything other than the vibrational state of the bacterium? So it’s kind of disingenuous to insist this would end up entangled with the ‘rest’ of state. Macroscopic quantum effects are still dope though!


#12

Studying Computer Science at uni here. This just in: neural networks are actually WILD. Been experimenting with trying to teach one to coin words from a definition with (incredibly) limited success so far but hopefully I’ll figure it out eventually!


#13

I think STEAM (A for Arts + Design) is an important pushback against blind STEM worship. It’s undeniable though that there’s interesting and cool things happening constantly in tech, especially since that seems to be where most public attention/dollars are going (and more where my personal interests are).

One thing that’s really worrisome to me is the SV-driven belief in data-driven algorithms and machine learning and neural networks as the black-box saviors of personal problems at the cost of social ignorance. There’s a blind trust in some dispassionate computer crunching numbers somewhere that spits out an answer to who should pick you up in their car, where you should go to eat, what you should buy, when you should save, what articles you should read.

But those algorithms are written by people like you and me, and trained on data from the past, and without careful and mindful consideration, are completely unable to address social ills and systemic inequality. As we depend more on apps to solve an increasing diversity of problems and annoyances, it’s not clear to me that app developers are likewise increasing their diversity and social responsibility. I’m not discounting that there are a huge number of great (and otherwise impossible) solutions that machine learning can help with, but I wish there was more balanced discussion of how we need to approach and frame the training data.


#14

Yeah most of the headlines are garbage. In fact, some of the articles can be inadequate for anyone who is reading with a super-technical focus, but they usually do a good job of citing the original source/publication. I’ll have a more in depth response about my research tomorrow (it’s currently 1:00 am here). I appreciate the response!


#15

Honestly, I’ve been thinking about your initial STEM education question for awhile. It’s a tough cookie. In high school, my teachers kinda just showed us some equations and how to use them, at least that’s all I can remember from then. It wasn’t till college that I was forced to start thinking in more rigorous and scientific way. That may be just because the problems were harder but I also think it had to do with the more open ended nature of my undergraduate science courses when compared to the ones I took in high school. I do know that, even though they were way harder, I got so much more enjoyment and fulfillment from the science classes I took in college. I wonder if there is a way to translate that type of experience into a high school setting, and maybe that could in turn help bring a higher baseline of scientific literacy to more people? Who knows?


#16

@TheElectricFields, @therealtakeshi I have some serious thoughts about both of these topics, thanks for the responses. Have to sleep now, but I’m really looking forward to this discussion.


#17

Oh man if y’all wanna talk poor gen-ed teaching structures and awful science headlines, hi, it me, your local Biochem PhD ready to crap all over my field’s engagement with non-science people :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

I think there’s a lot of desire for people to latch onto the “cool/scary” angle for biotech, but I’d honestly rather people try more to explain how/why a lot of biotech is already a key part of your day-to-day. If we focus too much on making science exceptional, we risk making it deliberately impenetrable.


#18

There definitely needs to be a lot more work on gen-ed teaching for science. I’m a history/Chinese major and focused on scientific history. One thing that grabbed my attention was when a professor of mine pointed out how we need to understand science and technology, otherwise we’re looking at black boxes of magic that do things when we want. Hell, looking at technology from hundreds of years ago still feels like magic at times to me, even though it’s almost entirely just mechanics and thermodynamics instead of the extremely more complex stuff like electrical-based work and then computing and etc.


#19

I audited a food anthropology course a while back and we read a great paper on the role of fish husbandry in Japanese fish markets (“Hatchery Flounder Going Wild: Authenticity, Aesthetics, and Fetishism of Fish in Japan” by Satsuki Takahashi). There was a great line about the elision of labor:

“As food critics and celebrity chefs will attest, a “wild” thing appeals because
of the richness of its flavor. Preferring wild berries, wild mushrooms, or wild
mint, for example, to “regular” ones, many consumers consider wildly grown
foodstuffs to be appetizing and of higher value. Such a perception on wild
food commodities is a form of fetish, which I call “wilderness fetishism.”
I refer here to “fetishism” in the manner used by James Carrier, who—by
extending Karl Marx’s original notion of commodity fetishism—calls attention
to “the ignoring or denial of the background of objects.” In analyzing
the commodity fetishism involved with ecotourism and fair trade, Carrier
differs from Marx’s emphasis on a nearly complete disregard for context.
He instead points to a certain selectiveness among consumers: For example,
while consumers of fair-trade coffee recognize the growers, they tend to elide
human labor involved between growers and purchasers, including those by
the roasters, shippers, and merchants. In the case of wild fish, consumers
particularly remember “nonhuman labor”—such as the work of waves, reefs,
and other inhabitants—involved in nurturing the ocean’s blessings, and also
recognize “human labor” involved in capturing them at sea, whereas they
tend to ignore other aspects of human labor performed, for example, by
conservation scientists, fisheries agents, wholesalers, and fishmongers. In
enhancing the value of the fish, this “wilderness fetishism” ignores particular
human relationships involved in the process of producing them.”

I think a lot of modern science reporting emphasizes a similar fetishism - in this case, a fetishism of personality and invention rather than process and regulation - that makes it seem like science is done by individuals rather than communities. Part of education to me should include discussions of science infrastructure and democratization instead of, say, “this old dude was a genius who made this discovery.” I’m conflicted over building narratives around scientists for this reason as well, since focusing on the humanity of the researcher rather than the humanity of those using the results downstream of their discoveries feels like a form of celebritization - which I’d argue is another type of harmful fetishism surrounding science and technology. There is so so so much more to science and tech than what we report on, and I wish we did more as a community to be transparent and open about it all.


#20
  1. The scientific method has much to offer but it is valuable to remember that STEM modes of reasoning can only answer the question “what is the case?” and not “what should be the case?”.

  2. If you want to go to a teaching-focused university, best of luck, but you are going to be poor. Universities that are willing to focus on instruction over research are increasingly small institutions with a religious bent. Perhaps it is better in physics than the biological sciences but teaching seems to be less respected than ever, even as the cost of college ascends to new and unprecedented heights.

  3. If you want to be terrified by the potential applications of a technology, spend an afternoon looking up CRISPR and what can in theory be done with it.