(This post is reprinted from the Guardian Political Science blog)
Every year, I teach a course for UCL undergraduates on Governing Emerging Technologies. Students from our department – Science and Technologies – join students from science degrees around UCL to think about technologies before they are set in stone. The course is an exercise in navigating uncertainty. There are few definitive statements to rely upon, and I ask students to be sceptical of claims that scientists, inventors, ethicists, policymakers or anyone else make about the future. As well as doing the usual essays, I also get them to blog about whatever aspects of emerging technologies they like.
Some of the results were brilliant, blending difficult sociological ideas with cutting edge science and first-class writing. As universities go quiet for August, I thought now would be a good time to highlight, and link to, my three favourite examples.
First up, Brandon Gleken, who was visiting for a term from the University of Pennsylvania. Brandon began with an interest in venture capital and innovative start-up. Over the term, he developed a critical angle and put some politics back into a debate that is often breathlessly enthusiastic. His post about “solipsistic startups” is a great case of using one strong idea to hold some important and difficult messages.
Secondly, Rosie Walters. Her blog did a brilliant job of retelling and updating some stories that are often repeated in STS. In particular, her take on feminism and technology, looking at the washing machine, is a far better introduction to that debate than you would find in most dry academic texts.
Finally, Philipp Boeing, who is already involved in the young science of synthetic biology, and came to the Governing Emerging Technologies course from a computer science degree. His blog is autobiographical, including reflections on social and ethical questions as part of his journey towards scientific research. His post on scientific and artistic freedom is an honest account of a perennial tension that a lot of practicing scientists feel.
These students have agreed for me to point people to their work. But, if you visit their blogs, remember that they are not experienced bloggers. They are blogging as part of a course requirement. Their work deserves a wider audience, and it deserves praise. Encouraging comments only, please.