People Should Find A Safe Storm Shelter During Thunderstorm

Storm Shelters in OKC

Tuesday June 5, 2001 marked the start of an extremely fascinating time in the annals of my cherished Houston. Tropical storm Allison, that early summer daytime came to see. The thunderstorm went rapidly, although there was Tuesday. Friday, afterward arrived, and Allison returned. This time going slowly, this time in the north. The thunderstorm became still. Thousands of people driven from their houses. Only when they might be desired most, several leading hospitals shut. Dozens of important surface roads, and every important highway covered in water that was high.

Yet even prior to the rain stopped, service to others, and narratives of Christian compassion started to be composed. For a couples class, about 75 people had assembled at Lakewood Church among the greatest nondenominational churches in The United States. From time they got ready to depart the waters had climbed so high they were stranded. The facility of Lakewood stayed dry and high at the center of among the hardest hit parts of town. Refugees in the powerful thunderstorm started arriving at their doorstep. Without no advance preparation, and demand of official sanction, those 75 classmates started a calamity shelter that grew to hold over 3,000 customers. The greatest of over 30 refuges that could be established in the height of the thunderstorm.

Where help was doled out to those who’d suffered losses after Lakewood functioned as a Red Cross Service Center. When it became clear that FEMA aid, and Red Cross wouldn’t bring aid enough, Lakewood and Second Baptist joined -Houston to produce an adopt a family plan to greatly help get folks on their feet quicker. In the occasions that followed militaries of Christians arrived in both churches. From all over town, people of economical standing, race, and each and every denomination collected. Wet rotted carpeting were pulled up, sheet stone removed. Piles of clothes donated food and bed clothes were doled out. Elbow grease and cleaning equipment were used to start eliminating traces of the damage.

It would have been an excellent example of practical ministry in a period of disaster, in the event the story stopped here, but it continues. A great many other churches functioned as shelters as well as in the occasions that followed Red Cross Service Centers. Tons of new volunteers, a lot of them Christians put to work, and were put through accelerated training. That Saturday, I used to be trapped in my own, personal subdivision. Particular that my family was safe because I worked in Storm Shelters OKC that was near where I used to live. What they wouldn’t permit the storm to do, is take their demand to give their religion, or their self respect. I saw so a lot of people as they brought gifts of food, clothes and bedclothes, praising the Lord. I saw young kids coming making use of their parents to not give new, rarely used toys to kids who had none.

Leaning On God Through Hard Times

Unity Church of Christianity from a location across town impacted by the storm sent a sizable way to obtain bedding as well as other supplies. A tiny troupe of musicians and Christian clowns requested to be permitted to amuse the kids in the shelter where I served and arrived. We of course promptly taken their offer. The kids were collected by them in a sizable empty space of flooring. They sang, they told stories, balloon animals were made by them. The kids, frightened, at least briefly displaced laughed.

When not occupied elsewhere I did lots of listening. I listened to survivors that were disappointed, and frustrated relief workers. I listened to kids make an effort to take advantage of a scenario they could not comprehend. All these are only the stories I have heard or seen. I am aware that spiritual groups, Churches, and lots of other individual Christians functioned admirably. I do need to thank them for the attempts in disaster. I thank The Lord for supplying them to serve.

I didn’t write its individuals, or this which means you’d feel sorry for Houston. As this disaster unfolded yet what I saw encouraged my beliefs the Lord will provide through our brothers and sisters in religion for us. Regardless how awful your community hits, you the individual Christian can be a part of the remedy. Those blankets you can probably never use, and have stored away mean much to people who have none. You are able to help in the event that you can drive. You are able to help if you’re able to create a cot. It is possible to help in the event that you can scrub a wall. It is possible to help if all you are able to do is sit and listen. Large catastrophes like Allison get lots of focus. However a disaster can come in virtually any size. That is a serious disaster to your family that called it home in case a single household burns. It is going to be generations prior to the folks here forget Allison.

United States Oil and Gas Exploration Opportunities

Firms investing in this sector can research, develop and create, as well as appreciate the edges of a global gas and oil portfolio with no political and economical disadvantages. Allowing regime and the US financial conditions is rated amongst the world and the petroleum made in US is sold at costs that were international. The firms will likely gain as US also has a national market that is booming. Where 500 exploration wells are drilled most of the petroleum exploration in US continues to be concentrated around the Taranaki Basin. On the other hand, the US sedimentary basins still remain unexplored and many show existence of petroleum seeps and arrangements were also unveiled by the investigation data with high hydrocarbon potential. There have already been onshore gas discoveries before including Great south river basins, East Coast Basin and offshore Canterbury.

As interest in petroleum is expected to grow strongly during this interval but this doesn’t automatically dim the bright future expectations in this sector. The interest in petroleum is anticipated to reach 338 PJ per annum. The US government is eager to augment the gas and oil supply. As new discoveries in this sector are required to carry through the national demand at the same time as raise the amount of self reliance and minimize the cost on imports of petroleum the Gas and Oil exploration sector is thought to be among the dawn sectors. The US government has invented a distinctive approach to reach its petroleum and gas exploration targets. It’s developed a “Benefit For Attempt” model for Petroleum and Gas exploration tasks in US.

The “Benefit For Attempt” in today’s analytic thinking is defined as oil reserves found per kilometer drilled. It will help in deriving the estimate of reservations drilled for dollar and each kilometer spent for each investigation. The authorities of US has revealed considerable signs that it’ll bring positive effects of change which will favor investigation of new oil reserves since the price of investigation has adverse effects on investigation task. The Authorities of US has made the information accessible about the oil potential in its study report. Foil of advice in royalty and allocation regimes, and simplicity of processes have enhanced the attractiveness of Petroleum and Natural Gas Sector in the United States.

Petroleum was the third biggest export earner in 2008 for US and the chance to to keep up the growth of the sector is broadly accessible by manners of investigation endeavors that are new. The government is poised to keep the impetus in this sector. Now many firms are active with new exploration jobs in the Challenger Plateau of the United States, Northland East Slope Basin region, outer Taranaki Basin, and Bellona Trough region. The 89 Energy oil and gas sector guarantees foreign investors as government to high increase has declared a five year continuance of an exemption for offshore petroleum and gas exploration in its 2009 budget. The authorities provide nonresident rig operators with tax breaks.

Modern Robot Duct Cleaning Uses

AC systems, and heat, venting collect pollutants and contaminants like mold, debris, dust and bacteria that can have an adverse impact on indoor air quality. Most folks are at present aware that indoor air pollution could be a health concern and increased visibility has been thus gained by the area. Studies have also suggested cleaning their efficacy enhances and is contributory to a longer operating life, along with maintenance and energy cost savings. The cleaning of the parts of forced air systems of heat, venting and cooling system is what’s called duct cleaning. Robots are an advantageous tool raising the price and efficacy facets of the procedure. Therefore, using modern robot duct isn’t any longer a new practice.

A cleaner, healthier indoor environment is created by a clean air duct system which lowers energy prices and increases efficiency. As we spend more hours inside air duct cleaning has become an important variable in the cleaning sector. Indoor pollutant levels can increase. Health effects can show years or up immediately after repeated or long exposure. These effects range from some respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and cancer that can be deadly or debilitating. Therefore, it’s wise to ensure indoor air quality isn’t endangered inside buildings. Dangerous pollutants that can found in inside can transcend outdoor air pollutants in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Duct cleaning from Air Duct Cleaning Edmond professionals removes microbial contaminants, that might not be visible to the naked eye together with both observable contaminants. Indoor air quality cans impact and present a health hazard. Air ducts can be host to a number of health hazard microbial agents. Legionnaires Disease is one malaise that’s got public notice as our modern surroundings supports the development of the bacteria that has the potential to cause outbreaks and causes the affliction. Typical disorder-causing surroundings contain wetness producing gear such as those in air conditioned buildings with cooling towers that are badly maintained. In summary, in building and designing systems to control our surroundings, we’ve created conditions that were perfect . Those systems must be correctly tracked and preserved. That’s the secret to controlling this disorder.

Robots allow for the occupation while saving workers from exposure to be done faster. Signs of the technological progress in the duct cleaning business is apparent in the variety of gear now available for example, array of robotic gear, to be used in air duct cleaning. Robots are priceless in hard to reach places. Robots used to see states inside the duct, now may be used for spraying, cleaning and sampling procedures. The remote controlled robotic gear can be fitted with practical and fastener characteristics to reach many different use functions.

Video recorders and a closed circuit television camera system can be attached to the robotic gear to view states and operations and for documentation purposes. Inside ducts are inspected by review apparatus in the robot. Robots traveling to particular sections of the system and can move around barriers. Some join functions that empower cleaning operation and instruction manual and fit into little ducts. An useful view range can be delivered by them with models delivering disinfection, cleaning, review, coating and sealing abilities economically.

The remote controlled robotic gear comes in various sizes and shapes for different uses. Of robotic video cameras the first use was in the 80s to record states inside the duct. Robotic cleaning systems have a lot more uses. These devices provide improved accessibility for better cleaning and reduce labor costs. Lately, functions have been expanded by areas for the use of small mobile robots in the service industries, including uses for review and duct cleaning.

More improvements are being considered to make a tool that was productive even more effective. If you determine to have your ventilation, heat and cooling system cleaned, it’s important to make sure all parts of the system clean and is qualified to achieve this. Failure to clean one part of a contaminated system can lead to re-contamination of the entire system.

When To Call A DWI Attorney

Charges or fees against a DWI offender need a legal Sugar Land criminal defense attorney that is qualified dismiss or so that you can reduce charges or the fees. So, undoubtedly a DWI attorney is needed by everyone. Even if it’s a first-time violation the penalties can be severe being represented by a DWI attorney that is qualified is vitally significant. If you’re facing following charges for DWI subsequently the punishments can contain felony charges and be severe. Locating an excellent attorney is thus a job you should approach when possible.

So you must bear in mind that you just should hire a DWI attorney who practices within the state where the violation occurred every state within America will make its laws and legislation regarding DWI violations. It is because they are going to have the knowledge and expertise of state law that is relevant to sufficiently defend you and will be knowledgeable about the processes and evaluations performed to establish your guilt.

As your attorney they are going to look to the evaluations that have been completed at the time of your arrest and the authorities evidence that is accompanying to assess whether or not these evaluations were accurately performed, carried out by competent staff and if the right processes where followed. It isn’t often that a police testimony is asserted against, although authorities testimony also can be challenged in court.

You should attempt to locate someone who specializes in these kind of cases when you start trying to find a DWI attorney. Whilst many attorneys may be willing to consider on your case, a lawyer who specializes in these cases is required by the skilled knowledge needed to interpret the scientific and medical evaluations ran when you had been detained. The first consultation is free and provides you with the chance to to inquire further about their experience in fees and these cases.

Many attorneys will work according into a fee that is hourly or on a set fee basis determined by the kind of case. You may find how they have been paid to satisfy your financial situation and you will have the capacity to negotiate the conditions of their fee. If you are unable to afford to hire an attorney that is private you then can request a court-appointed attorney paid for by the state. Before you hire a DWI attorney you should make sure when you might be expected to appear in court and you understand the precise charges imposed against you.

How Credit Card Works

The credit card is making your life more easy, supplying an amazing set of options. The credit card is a retail trade settlement; a credit system worked through the little plastic card which bears its name. Regulated by ISO 7810 defines credit cards the actual card itself consistently chooses the same structure, size and contour. A strip of a special stuff on the card (the substance resembles the floppy disk or a magnetic group) is saving all the necessary data. This magnetic strip enables the credit card’s validation. The layout has become an important variable; an enticing credit card layout is essential in ensuring advice and its dependability keeping properties.

A credit card is supplied to the user just after a bank approves an account, estimating a varied variety of variables to ascertain fiscal dependability. This bank is the credit supplier. When a purchase is being made by an individual, he must sign a receipt to verify the trade. There are the card details, and the amount of cash to be paid. You can find many shops that take electronic authority for the credit cards and use cloud tokenization for authorization. Nearly all verification are made using a digital verification system; it enables assessing the card is not invalid. If the customer has enough cash to insure the purchase he could be attempting to make staying on his credit limit any retailer may also check.

As the credit supplier, it is as much as the banks to keep the user informed of his statement. They typically send monthly statements detailing each trade procedures through the outstanding fees, the card and the sums owed. This enables the cardholder to ensure all the payments are right, and to discover mistakes or fraudulent action to dispute. Interest is typically charging and establishes a minimal repayment amount by the end of the following billing cycle.

The precise way the interest is charged is normally set within an initial understanding. On the rear of the credit card statement these elements are specified by the supplier. Generally, the credit card is an easy type of revolving credit from one month to another. It can also be a classy financial instrument, having many balance sections to afford a greater extent for credit management. Interest rates may also be not the same as one card to another. The credit card promotion services are using some appealing incentives find some new ones along the way and to keep their customers.

Why Get Help From A Property Management?

One solution while removing much of the anxiety, to have the revenue of your rental home would be to engage and contact property management in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. If you wish to know more and are considering the product please browse the remainder of the post. Leasing out your bit of real property may be real cash-cow as many landlords understand, but that cash flow usually includes a tremendous concern. Night phones from tenants that have the trouble of marketing the house if you own an emptiness just take out lots of the pleasure of earning money off of leases, overdue lease payments which you must chase down, as well as over-flowing lavatories. One solution while removing much of the anxiety, to have the earnings would be to engage a property management organization.

These businesses perform as the go between for the tenant as well as you. The tenant will not actually need to understand who you’re when you hire a property management company. The company manages the day to day while you still possess the ability to help make the final judgements in regards to the home relationships using the tenant. The company may manage the marketing for you personally, for those who are in possession of a unit that is vacant. Since the company is going to have more connections in a bigger market than you’ve got along with the industry than you are doing, you’ll discover your device gets stuffed a whole lot more quickly making use of their aid. In addition, the property management company may care for testing prospective tenants. With regards to the arrangement you’ve got, you might nevertheless not be unable to get the last say regarding if a tenant is qualified for the the system, but of locating a suitable tenant, the day-to-day difficulty is not any longer your problem. They’ll also manage the before-move-in the reviews as well as reviews required following a tenant moves away.

It is possible to step back watching the profits, after the the system is stuffed. Communicating will be handled by the company with all the tenant if you have an issue. You won’t be telephoned if this pipe explosions at the center of the night time. Your consultant is called by the tenant in the company, who then makes the preparations that are required to get the issue repaired with a care supplier. You get a phone call a day later or may not know there was an issue before you register using the business. The property management organization may also make your leasing obligations to to get. The company will do what’s required to accumulate if your tenant is making a payment. In certain arrangements, the organization is going to also take-over paying taxation, insurance, and the mortgage on the portion of property. You actually need to do-nothing but appreciate after after all the the invoices are paid, the revenue which is sent your way.

With all the advantages, you’re probably questioning exactly what to employing a property management organization, the downside should be. From hiring one the primary variable that stops some landlords is the price. All these providers will be paid for by you. The price must be weighed by you from the time frame you’ll save time that you may subsequently use to follow additional revenue-producing efforts or just take pleasure in the fruits of your expense work.

Benifits From An Orthodontic Care

Orthodontics is the specialty of dentistry centered on the identification and treatment of dental and related facial problems. The outcomes of Norman Orthodontist OKC treatment could be dramatic — an advanced quality of life for a lot of individuals of ages and lovely grins, improved oral health health, aesthetics and increased cosmetic tranquility. Whether into a look dentistry attention is needed or not is an individual’s own choice. Situations are tolerated by most folks like totally various kinds of bite issues or over bites and don’t get treated. Nevertheless, a number people sense guaranteed with teeth that are correctly aligned, appealing and simpler. Dentistry attention may enhance construct and appearance power. It jointly might work with you consult with clearness or to gnaw on greater.

Orthodontic attention isn’t only decorative in character. It might also gain long term oral health health. Right, correctly aligned teeth is not more difficult to floss and clean. This may ease and decrease the risk of rot. It may also quit periodontists irritation that problems gums. Periodontists might finish in disease, that occurs once micro-organism bunch round your house where the teeth and the gums meet. Periodontists can be ended in by untreated periodontists. Such an unhealthiness result in enamel reduction and may ruin bone that surrounds the teeth. Less may be chewed by people who have stings that are harmful with efficacy. A few of us using a serious bite down side might have difficulties obtaining enough nutrients. Once the teeth aren’t aimed correctly, this somewhat might happen. Morsel issues that are repairing may allow it to be more easy to chew and digest meals.

One may also have language problems, when the top and lower front teeth do not arrange right. All these are fixed through therapy, occasionally combined with medical help. Eventually, remedy may ease to avoid early use of rear areas. Your teeth grow to an unlikely quantity of pressure, as you chew down. In case your top teeth do not match it’ll trigger your teeth that are back to degrade. The most frequently encountered type of therapy is the braces (or retainer) and head-gear. But, a lot people complain about suffering with this technique that, unfortunately, is also unavoidable. Sport braces damages, as well as additional individuals have problem in talking. Dental practitioners, though, state several days can be normally disappeared throughout by the hurting. Occasionally annoyance is caused by them. In the event that you’d like to to quit more unpleasant senses, fresh, soft and tedious food must be avoided by you. In addition, tend not to take your braces away unless the medical professional claims so.

It is advised which you just observe your medical professional often for medical examinations to prevent choice possible problems that may appear while getting therapy. You are going to be approved using a specific dental hygiene, if necessary. Dental specialist may look-out of managing and id malocclusion now. Orthodontia – the main specialization of medication – mainly targets repairing chin problems and teeth, your grin as well as thus your sting. Dentist, however, won’t only do chin remedies and crisis teeth. They also handle tender to severe dental circumstances which may grow to states that are risky. You actually have not got to quantify throughout a predicament your life all. See dental specialist San – Direction Posts, and you’ll notice only but of stunning your smile plenty will soon be.

Gulf Stream series wins Knight Science Journalism Program’s Inaugural Victor K. McElheny Award

The Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT has announced that the inaugural Victor K. McElheny Award for local and regional science journalism will go to a team of reporters from the Charleston Post and Courier, for an investigative series that shed light on a little-known impact of climate change and an overlooked risk of offshore drilling in the eastern U.S.

The series featured a captivating piece by Tony Bartelme that took readers “into” the Gulf Stream, the powerful system of currents that carries warm tropical water up the U.S. East Coast to the Arctic. Weaving the story of a 1969 submarine expedition with the more recent story of an unexpected Gulf Stream slowdown, Bartelme expertly conveyed both the current’s might and its fragility in the face of climate change. In a data-driven companion piece, Bartelme and Emory Parker used more than 1,000 simulations to paint a startling picture of how the Gulf Stream could complicate efforts to contain spills from offshore drilling operations — a salient concern now that some lawmakers are pushing to open the East Coast to drilling. And in a mark of the team’s innovative approach to audience engagement, the series included an adult coloring book: “30 Days in the Gulf Stream,” designed by Bartelme and Chad Dunbar.

“It was really well done and creative — an unexpected story told with great storytelling technique,” remarked a member of the judging panel. “The topic was fresh, and it had real impact.” National environmental groups described the team’s work as “stunning,” and the series helped energize the drilling debate ahead of South Carolina’s 2018 elections.

In addition to the Post and Courier series, judges honored two other outstanding entries as finalists: The Seattle Times series Hostile Waters, a gut-wrenching story of how hunting, pollution, and other human activities have caused the population of Southern Resident Orcas in Puget Sound to dwindle toward extinction; and The Last Grove, a Tampa Bay Times feature that recounts the closing of Hillsborough County’s last commercial orange grove, a victim of Florida’s citrus greening epidemic. The three honorees rose to the top of a competitive field that included more than 100 entries from newspapers, magazines, and radio stations across the U.S.

Named after the Knight Science Journalism Program’s founding director, the Victor K. McElheny Award was established to honor outstanding coverage of science, public health, technology, and environmental issues at the local and regional level. “The local newspaper and radio station are where many people get the news that matters to them the most, and sadly, a lot of good science reporting at these outlets goes unnoticed,” said Deborah Blum, director of the Knight Science Journalism Program. “So it was really encouraging to see the quality, breadth, and depth of science coverage in this year’s entries — and to see that these stories are having real impacts in their communities.”

The winning team from the Post and Courier will be honored at a luncheon ceremony at MIT’s Samberg Center on Wednesday, April 17.

The McElheny Award is made possible by generous support from Victor K. McElheny, Ruth McElheny, and the Rita Allen Foundation. The award’s judges and screeners include Brian Bergstein (freelance journalist), Magnus Bjerg (TV 2, Denmark), Alicia Chang (Associated Press), Jason Dearen (Associated Press), Lisa De Bode (freelance journalist), Gideon Gil (STAT), Elana Gordon (WHYY), and Barbara Moran (WBUR).

2019 McElheny Award honorees

Winner:

Charleston Post and Courier (Tony Bartelme, Chad Dunbar, and J. Emory Parker)

A powerful current just miles from SC is changing. It could devastate the East Coast.

If oil spilled off SC’s coast, a huge current would make it ‘impossible to control’

A massive current off Charleston’s coast is changing

Finalists:

Seattle Times (Lynda V. Mapes, Steve Ringman, Emily Eng, Lauren Frohne, and Ramon Dompor)

Hostile Waters

The orca and the orca catcher: How a generation of killer whales was taken from Puget Sound

To catch an orca

Tampa Bay Times (Lisa Gartner)

Florida scientists are working to solve greening. They were too late for Cee Bee’s.

The Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT, founded more than 30 years ago, seeks to nurture and enhance the ability of journalists from around the world to accurately document and illuminate the often complex intersection of science, technology and human culture. It does so through an acclaimed fellowship program — which hosts 10 or more journalists every academic year — and also through science-focused seminars, skills-focused master classes, workshops, and publications.

Since it began, the program has hosted more than 300 fellows, who continue to cover science across a range of platforms in the United States, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Time, Scientific American, Science, the Associated Press, and broadcast outlets ranging from ABC News to CNN, as well as in numerous other countries.

Tim Berners-Lee named FT “Boldness in Business” Person of the Year

The week that his invention of the World Wide Web turned 30, MIT professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee has been named the Financial Times’ Person of the Year in their special “Boldness in Business” issue.

Berners-Lee was honored for his new startup inrupt, which emerged out of work at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) developing the open-data platform Solid.

Solid aims to give users ownership over their data by building decentralized social applications.

“Right now we really have the worst of all worlds, in which people not only cannot control their data, but also can’t really use it, because it’s spread across a number of different silo-ed websites,” says Berners-Lee. “Our goal is to ‘re-decentralize the web’ and develop a web architecture that gives users more control over the information they provide to applications.”

Solid has produced some 50,000 so-called personal online data stores (PODs) that are being experimented on by thousands of developers across more than 25 countries. His company is also collaborating with partners like UK’s National Health Service to explore growing the scale of Solid, and intends to launch a user product by the end of the year.

In the FT article, Berners-Lee acknowledges the challenges of breaking through with a new paradigm in a climate where companies have vested interests in maintaining their data ecosystem. But he retains a healthy optimism that recent concerns about data privacy have created more momentum for a project like this.

“It is rocket science. It is tricky. Things can blow up on you,” Berners-Lee told FT. “But we know how to fire rockets into the sky. We should be able to build constructive social networks.”

Besides his responsibilities at CSAIL, Berners-Lee is director of the World Wide Web Consortium, which develops web standards, specifications, and tool, as well as director of the World Wide Web Foundation, which does advocacy related to “a free and open web for everyone.”

He is the 3Com Founders Professor of Engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT as well as a recipient of the A.C.M. Turing Award, often described as “the Nobel Prize of computing,” for inventing the web and developing the protocols that spurred its global use.

“Tim’s contributions to computer science have fundamentally transformed the world, and his more recent work with inrupt is poised to do the same,” says CSAIL Director Daniela Rus. “All of us at the lab — and MIT more broadly — are so very proud of him and excited to see how his efforts will continue to impact the way that people use and share data.”

Ethics, Computing, and AI: Perspectives from MIT

The MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing will reorient the Institute to bring the power of computing and AI to all fields at MIT; allow the future of computing and AI to be shaped by all MIT disciplines; and advance research and education in ethics and public policy to help ensure that new technologies benefit the greater good.

To support ongoing planning for the new college, Dean Melissa Nobles invited faculty from all five MIT schools to offer perspectives on the societal and ethical dimensions of emerging technologies. This series presents the resulting commentaries — practical, inspiring, concerned, and clear-eyed views from an optimistic community deeply engaged with issues that are among the most consequential of our time. 

The commentaries represent diverse branches of knowledge, but they sound some common themes, including: the vision of an MIT culture in which all of us are equipped and encouraged to discern the impact and ethical implications of our endeavors.

FOREWORD
Ethics, Computing, and AI  
Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin Dean, and Professor of Political Science
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

“These commentaries, representing faculty from all five MIT schools, implore us to be collaborative, foresighted, and courageous as we shape a new college — and to proceed with judicious humility. Rightly so. We are embarking on an endeavor that will influence nearly every aspect of the human future.” Read more >>

INTRODUCTION
The Tools of Moral Philosophy
Caspar Hare, Professor of Philosophy
Kieran Setiya, Professor of Philosophy
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

“We face ethical questions every day. Philosophy does not provide easy answers for these questions, nor even fail-safe techniques for resolving them. What it does provide is a disciplined way to think about ethical questions, to identify hidden moral assumptions, and to establish principles by which our actions may be guided and judged. Framing a discussion of the risks of advanced technology entirely in terms of ethics suggests that the problems raised are ones that can and should be solved by individual action. In fact, many of the challenges presented by computer science will prove difficult to address without systemic change.”

Action: Moral philosophers can serve both as teachers in the new College and as advisers/consultants on project teams. Read more >>

WELCOMING REMARKS
A New Kind of Education
Susan Silbey, Chair of the MIT Faculty
Celebration for the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing
28 February 2018

“The college of computing will be dedicated to educating a different kind of technologist. We hope to integrate computing with just about every other subject at MIT so that students leave here with the knowledge and resources to be wiser, more ethically and technologically competent citizens and professionals.” Read more >>

Part I: A Human Endeavor
Computing is embedded in cultural, economic, and political realities.

Computing is Deeply Human
Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology
Heather Paxson, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Anthropology
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

“Computing is a human practice that entails judgment and is embedded in politics. Computing is not an external force that has an impact on society; instead, society — institutional structures that organize systems of social norms — is built right into making, programming, and using computers.”

Action: The computational is political; MIT can make that recognition one of the pillars of computing and AI research. Read more >>

When Computer Programs Become Unpredictable
John Guttag, Dugald C. Jackson Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
School of Engineering

“We should look forward to the many good things machine-learning will bring to society. But we should also insist that technologists study the risks and clearly explain them. And society as whole should take responsibility for understanding the risks and for making human-centric choices about how best to use this ever-evolving technology.”

Action: Develop platforms that enable a wide spectrum of society to engage with the societal and ethical issues of new technology. Read more >>

Safeguarding Humanity in the Age of AI
Bernhardt Trout, Raymond F. Baddour Professor of Chemical Engineering
School of Engineering

“There seem to be two possibilities for how AI will turn out. In the first, AI will do what it is on track to do: slowly take over every human discipline. The second possibility is that we take the existential threat of AI with the utmost seriousness and completely change our approach. This means redirecting our thinking from a blind belief in efficiency to a considered understanding of what is most important about human life.” Read more >>

Action: Develop a curriculum that encourages us to reflect deeply on fundamental questions: What is justice? How ought I to live?

II. COMMUNITY INSIGHTS
Shaping ethical technology is a collective responsibility.

The Common Ground of Stories
Mary Fuller, Professor of Literature, and Head MIT Literature section
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Science

“Stories are things in themselves, and they are also things to think with. Stories allow us to model interpretive, affective, ethical choices; they also become common ground. Reading about Milton’s angelic intelligences or William Gibson’s “bright lattices of logic” won’t tell us what we should do with the future, but reading such stories at MIT may offer a conceptual meeting place to think together across the diversity of what and how we know.”

Action: Create residencies for global storytellers in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. Read more >>

Who’s Calling the Shots with AI?
Leigh Hafrey, Senior Lecturer, Leadership and Ethics
MIT Sloan School of Management

“‘Efficiency’ is a perennial business value and a constant factor in corporate design, strategy, and execution. But in a world where the exercise of social control by larger entities is real, developments in artificial intelligence have yet to yield the ethics by which we might manage their effects. The integrity of our vision for the future depends on our learning from the past and celebrating the fact that people, not artifacts and institutions, set our rules of engagement.”

Action: Adopt a full-on stakeholder view of business in society and the individual in business. Read more >>

In Praise of Wetware
Caroline A. Jones, Professor of Art History
School of Architecture and Planning

“As we enshrine computation as the core of smartness, we would be well advised to think of the complexity of our ‘wet’ cognition, which entails a much more distributed notion of intelligence that goes well beyond the sacred cranium and may not even be bounded by our own skin.”

Action: Before claiming that it is “intelligence” we’ve produced in machines or modeled in computation, we should better understand the adaptive, responsive human wetware — and its dependence on a larger living ecosystem. Read more >>

Blind Spots
David Kaiser, Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science, and Professor of Physics
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and Department of Physics

“MIT has a powerful opportunity to lead in the development of new technologies while also leading careful, deliberate, broad-ranging, and ongoing community discussions about the “whys” and ‘what ifs,’ not just the ‘hows.’ No group of researchers, flushed with the excitement of learning and building something new, can overcome the limitations of blind spots and momentum alone.”

Action: Create ongoing forums for brainstorming and debate; we will benefit from engaging as many stakeholders as possible. Read more >>

Assessing the Impact of AI on Society
Lisa Parks, Professor of Comparative Media Studies
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

“Three fundamental societal challenges have emerged from the use of AI, particularly for data collection and machine learning. The first challenge centers on this question: Who has the power to know about how AI tools work, and who does not? A second challenge involves learning how AI tools intersect with international relations and the dynamics of globalization. Beyond questions of knowledge, power, and globalization, it is important to consider the relationship between AI and social justice.”

Action: Conduct a political, economic, and materialist analysis of the relationship of AI technology to global trade, governance, natural environments, and culture. Read more >>

Clues and Caution for AI from the History of Biomedicine
Robin Wolfe Scheffler, Leo Marx Career Development Professor in the History and Culture of Science and Technology
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

“The use of AI in the biomedical fields today deepens longstanding questions raised by the past intractability of biology and medicine to computation, and by the flawed assumptions that were adopted in attempting to make them so. The history of these efforts underlines two major points: ‘Quantification is a process of judgment and evaluation, not simple measurement’ and ‘Prediction is not destiny.'”

Action: First, understand the nature of the problems we want to solve — which include issues not solvable by technical innovation alone. Let that knowledge guide new AI and technology projects. Read more >>

The Environment for Ethical Action
T.L. Taylor, Professor of Comparative Media Studies
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

“We can cultivate our students as ethical thinkers but if they aren’t working in (or studying in) structures that support advocacy, interventions, and pushing back on proposed processes, they will be stymied. Ethical considerations must include a sociological model that focuses on processes, policies, and structures and not simply individual actors.”

Action: Place a commitment to social justice at the heart of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. Read more >>

Biological Intelligence and AI
Matthew A. Wilson, Sherman Fairchild Professor of Neuroscience
School of Science and the Picower Institute

“An understanding of biological intelligence is relevant to the development of AI, and the effort to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI) magnifies its significance. AGIs will be expected to conform to standards of behavior…Should we hold AIs to the same standards as the average human? Or will we expect AIs to perform at the level of an ideal human?”

Action: Conduct research on how innate morality arises in human intelligence, as an important step toward incorporating such a capacity into artificial intelligences. Read more >>

Machine Anxiety
Bernardo Zacka, Assistant Professor of Political Science
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

“To someone who studies bureaucracy, the anxieties surrounding AI have an eerily familiar ring. So too does the excitement. For much of the 20th century, bureaucracies were thought to be intelligent machines. As we examine the ethical and political implications of AI, there are at least two insights to draw from bureaucracy’s history: That it is worth studying our anxieties whether or not they are realistic; and that in doing so we should not write off human agency.”

Action: When societies undergo deep transformations, envisioning a future that is both hopeful and inclusive is a task that requires moral imagination, empathy, and solidarity. We can study the success of societies that have faced such challenges well. Read more >>

Part III: A Structure for Collaboration
Thinking together is powerful.

Bilinguals and Blending
Hal Abelson, Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
School of Engineering

“When we study society today, we can no longer separate humanities — the study of what’s human — from computing. So, while there’s discussion under way about building bridges between computing and the humanities, arts, and social sciences, what the College of Computing needs is blending, not bridging. MIT’s guideline should be President Reif’s goal to ‘educate the bilinguals of the future’ —experts in many fields who are also skilled in modern computing.”

Action: Develop approaches for joint research and joint teaching. Read more >>

A Dream of Computing
Fox Harrell, Professor of Digital Media and Artificial Intelligence
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences + Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab

“There are numerous perspectives on what computing is: some people focus on theoretical underpinnings, others on implementation, others still on social or environmental impacts. These perspectives are unified by shared characteristics, including some less commonly noted: computing can involve great beauty and creativity.”

Action: “We must reimagine our shared dreams for computing technologies as ones where their potential social and cultural impacts are considered intrinsic to the engineering practices of inventing them.” Read more >>

A Network of Practitioners
Nick Montfort, Professor of Media Studies
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

“Computing is not a single discipline or even a set of disciplines; it is a practice. The new College presents an opportunity for many practitioners of computing at MIT.”

Action: Build a robust network with many relevant types of connections, not all of them through a single core. Read more >>

Two Commentaries
Susan Silbey, Chair of the MIT Faculty
Goldberg Professor of Humanities, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, and Professor of Behavioral and Policy Sciences
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and MIT Sloan School of Management

How Not To Teach Ethics  — “Rather than thinking about ethics as a series of anecdotal instances of problematic choice-making, we might think about ethics as participation in a moral culture, and then ask how that culture supports or challenges ethical behavior.”

Forming the College  — “The Stephen A. Schwarzman College is envisioned to be the nexus connecting those who advance computer science, those who use computational tools in specific subject fields, and those who analyze and write about digital worlds.” Read more >>

Ethical AI by Design
Abby Everett Jaques, Postdoctoral Associate, Philosophy
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

“We are teaching an ethical protocol, a step-by-step process that students can use for their own projects. In this age of self-driving cars and machine learning, the questions feel new, but in many ways they’re not. Philosophy offers powerful tools to help us answer them.” Read more >>

Series prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Office of the Dean, MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Series Editors: Emily Hiestand, Kathryn O’Neill

MIT celebrates 50th anniversary of historic moon landing

On Sept. 12, 1962, in a speech given in Houston to pump up support for NASA’s Apollo program, President John F. Kennedy shook a stadium crowd with the now-famous quote: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

As he delivered these lines, engineers in MIT’s Instrumentation Laboratory were already taking up the president’s challenge. One year earlier, NASA had awarded MIT the first major contract of the Apollo program, charging the Instrumentation Lab with developing the spacecraft’s guidance, navigation, and control systems that would shepherd astronauts Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong to the moon and back.

On July 20, 1969, the hard work of thousands paid off, as Apollo 11 touched down on the lunar surface, safely delivering Armstrong and Aldrin ScD ’63 as the first people to land on the moon.

On Wednesday, MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro) celebrated the 50th anniversary of this historic event with the daylong symposium “Apollo 50+50,” featuring former astronauts, engineers, and NASA adminstrators who examined the legacy of the Apollo program, and MIT faculty, students, industry leaders, and alumni who envisioned what human space exploration might look like in the next 50 years.

In welcoming a large audience to Kresge Auditorium, some of whom sported NASA regalia for the occasion, Daniel Hastings, head of AeroAstro, said of today’s prospects for space exploration: “It’s the most exciting time since Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon.”

The event kicked off three days of programming for MIT Space Week, which also included the Media Lab’s “Beyond the Cradle: Envisioning a New Space Age” on March 14, and the student-led “New Space Age Conference” on March 15.

“We could press on”

As a “baby boomer living through Apollo,” retired astronaut Charles Bolden, NASA’s 12th administrator, said the Apollo program illustrated “how masterful we were at overcoming adversity.” In a keynote address that opened the day’s events, Bolden reminded the audience that, at the time the ambitious program got underway in the 1960s, the country was in the violent thick of the civil rights movement.

We were killing each other in the streets,” Bolden said. “And yet we had an agency like NASA, and a small group of people, who were able to bear through everything and land on the moon. … We could recognize there were greater things we could do as a people, and we could press on.”

For MIT’s part, the push began with a telegram on Aug. 9, 1961, to Charles Stark Draper, director of the Instrumentation Laboratory, notifying him that NASA had selected the MIT lab “to develop the guidance navigation system of the Project Apollo spacecraft.” Draper, who was known widely as “Doc,” famously assured NASA of MIT’s work by volunteering himself as a crew member on the mission, writing to the agency that “if I am willing to hang my life on our equipment, the whole project will surely have the strongest possible motivation.”

This of course proved unnecessary, and Draper went on to lead the development of the guidance system with “unbounded optimism,” as his former student and colleague Lawrence Young, the MIT Apollo Program Professor, recalled in his remarks.

“We owe the lighting of our fuse to Doc Draper,” Young said.

At the time that MIT took on the Apollo project, the Instrumentation Laboratory, later renamed Draper Laboratory, took up a significant footprint, with 2,000 people and 15 buildings on campus, dedicated largely to the lunar effort.

“The Instrumentation Lab dwarfed the [AeroAstro] department,” said Hastings, joking, “it was more like the department was a small pimple on the Instrumentation Lab.”

Apollo remembered

In a highlight of the day’s events, NASA astronauts Walter Cunningham (Apollo 7) and Charles Duke SM ’64 (Apollo 16), and MIT Instrumentation Laboratory engineers Donald Eyles and William Widnall ’59, SM ’62 — all from the Apollo era — took the stage to reminisce about some of the technical challenges and emotional moments that defined the program.

One of the recurring themes of their conversation was the observation that things simply got done faster back then. For instance, Duke remarked that it took just 8.5 years from when Kennedy first called for the mission, to when Armstrong’s boots hit the lunar surface.

“I would argue the proposal for such a mission would take longer [today],” Duke said to an appreciative rumble from the audience.

The Apollo Guidance Computer, developed at MIT, weighed 70 pounds, consumed 55 watts of power — half the wattage of a regular lightbulb — and took up less than 1 cubic foot inside the spacecraft. The system was one of the first digital flight computers, and one of the first computers to use integrated circuits.  

Eyles and Widnall recalled in detail the technical efforts that went into developing the computer’s hardware and software. “If you’re picturing [the computer code] on a monitor, you’d be wrong,” Eyles told the audience. “We were writing the program on IBM punch cards. That clunking mechanical sound of the key-punch machine was the soundtrack to creating the software.”

Written out, that code famously amounted to a stack of paper as tall as lead software engineer Margaret Hamilton — who was not able to participate in Wednesday’s panel but attended the symposium dinner that evening.

In the end, the Apollo Guidance Computer succeeded in steering 15 space flights, including nine to the moon, and six lunar landings. That’s not to say that the system didn’t experience some drama along the way, and Duke, who was the capsule communicator, or CAPCOM, for Apollo 11, remembers having to radio up to the spacecraft during the now-famous rocky landing.

“When I heard the first alarm go off during the braking phase, I thought we were dead in the water,” Duke said of the first in a series of alerts that the Apollo astronauts reported, indicating that the computer was overloaded, during the most computationally taxing phase of the mission. The spacecraft was several miles off course and needed to fly over a “boulder field,” to land within 60 seconds or risk running out of fuel.

Flight controllers in Houston’s Mission Control Center determined that if nothing else went wrong, the astronats, despite the alarms, could proceed with landing.

“Tension was high,” Duke said of the moment. “You didn’t want to touch down on a boulder and blow a nozzle, and spoil your whole day.”

When the crew finally touched down on the Sea of Tranquility, with Armstrong’s cool report that “the Eagle has landed,” Duke, too wound-up to properly verbalize the callback “Tranquility,” recalls “I was so excited … it came out as ‘Twang,’ or something like that.’ The tension — it was like popping a balloon.”

Since the Apollo era, NASA has launched astronauts on numerous missions, many of whom are MIT graduates. On Wednesday, 13 of those graduates came onstage to be recognized along with the Apollo crew.

In introducing them to the audience, Jeffrey Hoffman, a former astronaut and now AeroAstro professor of the practice, noted MIT’s significant representation in the astronaut community. For instance, in the five missions to repair the Hubble Space Telescope, which comprised 24 spacewalks, 13 of those were performed by MIT graduates.

“That’s pretty cool,” Hoffman said.

On the horizon

The Apollo moon rocks that were were brought back to Earth have “evolved our understanding of how the moon formed,” said Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research and the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. These rocks “vanquished” the idea that the moon originally formed as a cold assemblage of rocks and “foo foo dust,” she said.

Instead, after carefully analyzing samples from Apollo 11 and other missions, scientists at MIT and elsewhere have found that the moon was a dynamic body, with a surface that at one time was entirely molten, and a metallic core, or “dynamo,” powering an early, lunar magnetic field. Even more provocative was the finding that the moon was not in fact “bone-dry,” but actually harbored water — an idea that Zuber said was virtually unpublishable until an MIT graduate reported evidence of water in Apollo samples, after which the floodgates opened in support of the idea.

To consider the next 50 years of space exploration, the MIT symposium featured a panel of faculty members — Paulo Lozano, Danielle Wood, Richard Binzel, and Sara Seager — who highlighted, respectively, the development of tiny thrusters to power miniature spacecraft; an effort to enable wider access to microgravity missions; an MIT student-designed mission (REXIS) that is currently analyzing the near-Earth asteroid Bennu; and TESS and ASTERIA, satellite missions that are currently in orbit, looking for planets and possibly, life, outside our solar system.

Industry leaders also weighed in on the growing commercialization of space exploration, in a panel featuring MIT alums who currently head major aerospace companies.

Keoki Jackson, chief technology officer of Lockheed Martin, noted the pervasiveness of space-based technologies, such as GPS-dependent apps for everything from weather and news, to Uber.

“[Commercial enterprises] have made space a taken-for-granted part of life,” said Jackson, noting later in the panel that in 2015, 1 billion GPS devices had been sold around the world. “This shows you what can happen exponentially when you come up with something truly enabling.”

“The challenge we face is talent, and in particular, diversity,” said John Langford, CEO and founder of Aurora Flight Sciences, who noted the panel’s all-male participants as an example. “It’s an industry-wide challenge. We’re working to reform ourselves, as we move from the brigade-type technologies that we grew up with, to incorporating technologies such as computer technology and artificial intelligence.”

Future missions

In a glimpse of what the future of space exploration might hold, MIT students presented lightning talks on a range of projects, including a custom-designed drill to excavate ice on Mars, a system that makes oxygen on Mars to fuel return missions to Earth, and a plan to send CubeSats around the world to monitor water vapor as a measure of climate change.

Audience members voted online for the best pitch, which ultimately went to Raichelle Aniceto and her presentation of a CubeSat-enabled laser communications system designed to transmit large amounts of data from the moon to Earth in just five minutes.

In the last keynote address of the symposium, Thomas Zubuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, told the audience that there is still a lot of research to be done on the moon, which he said is changing, as evidenced by new craters that have formed in the last 50 years.

“The moon of the Apollo era is not the same moon of today,” said Zurbuchen, who noted that just this week, NASA announced it will open previously unlocked samples of soil collected by the Apollo missions.

In closing the symposium, Dava Newman, the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics and former NASA deputy administrator, envisioned a future dedicated to sending humans back to the moon, and ultimately to Mars.

“I’m a rocket scientist. I got here because of Apollo, and Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: Believe in the beauty of your dreams,” Newman said. “The challenge is, within 50 years, to be boots on Mars. I think we have the brains and the doers and inspiration to really make that happen.”

Microgravity research after the International Space Station

For nearly 20 years, the International Space Station (ISS) has served as a singular laboratory for thousands of scientists, students, and startups around the world, who  have accessed the station’s microgravity environment to test how being in space impacts everything from cancer cells and human tissues to zucchini and barley seeds — not to mention a host of living organisms including flatworms, ants, geckos, and bobtail squids.

Indeed, the ISS “has operated as a bastion of international cooperation and a unique testbed for microgravity research,” write MIT engineers in a paper they presented on March 8 at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in Montana. But the ISS will eventually be retired in its current form. NASA is preparing to transition the focus of its human space flight activities to the Moon, and the international partners that manage the ISS are discussing how to transition out of the current operational model.

As NASA explores options for commercial entities to operate research platforms in orbit around Earth, and while other public and private entities consider alternative designs for microgravity facilities, the MIT team says it’s important to keep affordable access to such facilities at the forefront of these discussions. In their paper, the researchers argue that scientists from any country should be able to participate in microgravity research.

Toward that end, the team has developed a tool for evaluating the accessibility of various “governance models,” such as facilities that are controlled by mostly governments or private entities, or a mixture of both.

MIT News checked in with the researchers about the future of microgravity research and how openness can drive innovation and collaboration in space. Christine Joseph is a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Technology and Policy Program. Danielle Wood is the Benesse Corporation Career Development Assistant Professor of Research in Education within MIT’s Program in Media Arts and Sciences and jointly appointed in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She is also founder of the Space Enabled Research Group within the MIT Media Lab, whose mission is to advance justice in Earth’s complex systems using designs enabled by space.

Q: Why is affordable access important, particularly for space-based microgravity research?

Wood: Participation in space-based microgravity research should be an opportunity open to researchers from every nation because space is a global commons that does not belong to a single nation. As stated in the Outer Space Treaty, ratified by over 100 countries, “the exploration and use of outer space … shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries … and shall be the province of all [hu]mankind.”

Studies in the microgravity environment bring new knowledge about the human body, plants, animals, materials, physics, manufacturing, and medicines. This knowledge can contribute to sustainable development when it is translated into Earth-based applications, such as when knowledge of astronaut exercise routines informs recovery procedures for patients facing long periods of bedrest, or when experiments about the physics of combustion yield results that can improve fire safety on Earth.

When a larger variety of researchers from around the world participate in microgravity research, the scientific community benefits from the broader range of research outcomes. Participation in microgravity research also helps countries that do not yet have experience in space build local capability to design and operate space-based experiments.

Q: How does your new tool evaluate accessibility to microgravity research facilities?

Joseph: We propose that accessibility can be measured using the metrics of economic and administrative openness. Economic openness is based on the financial costs paid by researchers to perform all the activities involved with completing a microgravity research project. This includes the costs associated with designing an experiment, engineering it to be safe and functional, launching it to space, accessing a facility that provides environmental control, data and power, operating the experiment, and possibly returning it to Earth.

Administrative openness refers to the type of gatekeeping that directly and indirectly determines who can participate. For example, today administrative procedures influence access depending on the nationality or type of organization the user comes from and the type of microgravity activity they are seeking. We map future microgravity research facilities and their governance policies along these dimensions of economic and administrative openness. Using these two metrics, we can rate the overall accessibility of a future marketplace for microgravity research.

Wood: Our goal is to encourage a dialogue about the value of providing access to this unique research environment. Many stakeholders — governments, companies, international organizations — may influence the rules that determine who sends micrgravity research to space after the International Space Station is retired. Thus far, the world has not experienced a microgravity research marketplace that is fully driven by commercial forces with prices set by a free market, because governments have subsidized the cost of research access as a public service. This work highlights the need to evaluate future policy and commercial proposals based on the needs of those that have the least access and experience with microgravity research today.

Q: What type of facility or structure have you found, through your tool, can provide the most affordable access to microgravity research, and what will it take to launch such a model?

Joseph: Although not ideal, our current structure has evolved to become surprisingly accessible. Faciliators like the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs help to broker access for emerging space nations by working with some of the “gatekeeper” space agencies that built the ISS. Commercial companies have also started to build and operate their own modules attached to the ISS that almost any user can buy access to. The ISS has become this interesting conglomeration of public, private, commercial, and international entities. So far, none of the other proposals for space stations in low Earth orbit (up to about 2,000 kilometers from the Earth’s surface) are mature enough to determine whether they will have a similar level of accessibility as the current environment.

However, we can always do better. Building the ISS was the single largest and most expensive construction project in human history and it involved effort from many countries. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the development of the ISS in terms of technical and policy models. We also need to take into account the expectations of the commercial companies that will participate in the emerging commercial space economy in low Earth orbit.

The “spaces in space” that we operate in are evolving dramatically. It is not too early to examine how policies and investment decisions will shape the nature of accessibility for microgravity research beyond the International Space Station. Thinking about accessibility now is important to help ensure that microgravity research remains the province of all humankind.

Microgravity research after the International Space Station

For nearly 20 years, the International Space Station (ISS) has served as a singular laboratory for thousands of scientists, students, and startups around the world, who  have accessed the station’s microgravity environment to test how being in space impacts everything from cancer cells and human tissues to zucchini and barley seeds — not to mention a host of living organisms including flatworms, ants, geckos, and bobtail squids.

Indeed, the ISS “has operated as a bastion of international cooperation and a unique testbed for microgravity research,” write MIT engineers in a paper they presented on March 8 at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in Montana. But the ISS will eventually be retired in its current form. NASA is preparing to transition the focus of its human space flight activities to the Moon, and the international partners that manage the ISS are discussing how to transition out of the current operational model.

As NASA explores options for commercial entities to operate research platforms in orbit around Earth, and while other public and private entities consider alternative designs for microgravity facilities, the MIT team says it’s important to keep affordable access to such facilities at the forefront of these discussions. In their paper, the researchers argue that scientists from any country should be able to participate in microgravity research.

Toward that end, the team has developed a tool for evaluating the accessibility of various “governance models,” such as facilities that are controlled by mostly governments or private entities, or a mixture of both.

MIT News checked in with the researchers about the future of microgravity research and how openness can drive innovation and collaboration in space. Christine Joseph is a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Technology and Policy Program. Danielle Wood is the Benesse Corporation Career Development Assistant Professor of Research in Education within MIT’s Program in Media Arts and Sciences and jointly appointed in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. She is also founder of the Space Enabled Research Group within the MIT Media Lab, whose mission is to advance justice in Earth’s complex systems using designs enabled by space.

Q: Why is affordable access important, particularly for space-based microgravity research?

Wood: Participation in space-based microgravity research should be an opportunity open to researchers from every nation because space is a global commons that does not belong to a single nation. As stated in the Outer Space Treaty, ratified by over 100 countries, “the exploration and use of outer space … shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries … and shall be the province of all [hu]mankind.”

Studies in the microgravity environment bring new knowledge about the human body, plants, animals, materials, physics, manufacturing, and medicines. This knowledge can contribute to sustainable development when it is translated into Earth-based applications, such as when knowledge of astronaut exercise routines informs recovery procedures for patients facing long periods of bedrest, or when experiments about the physics of combustion yield results that can improve fire safety on Earth.

When a larger variety of researchers from around the world participate in microgravity research, the scientific community benefits from the broader range of research outcomes. Participation in microgravity research also helps countries that do not yet have experience in space build local capability to design and operate space-based experiments.

Q: How does your new tool evaluate accessibility to microgravity research facilities?

Joseph: We propose that accessibility can be measured using the metrics of economic and administrative openness. Economic openness is based on the financial costs paid by researchers to perform all the activities involved with completing a microgravity research project. This includes the costs associated with designing an experiment, engineering it to be safe and functional, launching it to space, accessing a facility that provides environmental control, data and power, operating the experiment, and possibly returning it to Earth.

Administrative openness refers to the type of gatekeeping that directly and indirectly determines who can participate. For example, today administrative procedures influence access depending on the nationality or type of organization the user comes from and the type of microgravity activity they are seeking. We map future microgravity research facilities and their governance policies along these dimensions of economic and administrative openness. Using these two metrics, we can rate the overall accessibility of a future marketplace for microgravity research.

Wood: Our goal is to encourage a dialogue about the value of providing access to this unique research environment. Many stakeholders — governments, companies, international organizations — may influence the rules that determine who sends micrgravity research to space after the International Space Station is retired. Thus far, the world has not experienced a microgravity research marketplace that is fully driven by commercial forces with prices set by a free market, because governments have subsidized the cost of research access as a public service. This work highlights the need to evaluate future policy and commercial proposals based on the needs of those that have the least access and experience with microgravity research today.

Q: What type of facility or structure have you found, through your tool, can provide the most affordable access to microgravity research, and what will it take to launch such a model?

Joseph: Although not ideal, our current structure has evolved to become surprisingly accessible. Faciliators like the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs help to broker access for emerging space nations by working with some of the “gatekeeper” space agencies that built the ISS. Commercial companies have also started to build and operate their own modules attached to the ISS that almost any user can buy access to. The ISS has become this interesting conglomeration of public, private, commercial, and international entities. So far, none of the other proposals for space stations in low Earth orbit (up to about 2,000 kilometers from the Earth’s surface) are mature enough to determine whether they will have a similar level of accessibility as the current environment.

However, we can always do better. Building the ISS was the single largest and most expensive construction project in human history and it involved effort from many countries. There are a lot of lessons to be learned from the development of the ISS in terms of technical and policy models. We also need to take into account the expectations of the commercial companies that will participate in the emerging commercial space economy in low Earth orbit.

The “spaces in space” that we operate in are evolving dramatically. It is not too early to examine how policies and investment decisions will shape the nature of accessibility for microgravity research beyond the International Space Station. Thinking about accessibility now is important to help ensure that microgravity research remains the province of all humankind.

Students helping to make islands carbon neutral

Small island communities across the globe are facing some of the earliest and most severe impacts of climate change. Many have started to turn away from traditional energy sources to reduce their own carbon footprints and inspire broader conversations on the urgent need for all communities to help mitigate climate change by dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Recently, the Massachusetts island community of Martha’s Vineyard engaged with MIT students to discuss pathways toward a net-zero carbon future. Getting to net-zero carbon emissions entails transitioning to low- or no-carbon energy generation, employing energy efficiency measures, offsetting emissions by purchasing carbon credits, and other measures.

Prompted by the Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee, Martha’s Vineyard is looking to achieve net-zero carbon by 2030. Even with its relatively small carbon footprint, the Vineyard could serve as a model for other island communities.

To meet this challenge, Martha’s Vineyard is collaborating with the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) to develop a multifaceted action plan. As a first step, MITEI hosted a net-zero carbon design thinking workshop during Independent Activities Period in January. The week-long program offered participants a chance to creatively explore clean energy options through a process known as the design thinking model. The workshop was co-hosted with Shell, a founding member of MITEI.

Design thinking is a uniquely collaborative process where groups are constantly engaged in out-of-the-box thought exercises and activities such as fast-paced brainstorming and rapid prototyping sessions. While still relatively new, the concept has proven itself time and time again as an effective problem-solving tool.

For senior Allison Shepard, the design thinking process has changed how she thinks about everything. “Design thinking really brings creativity and hands-on, quick thinking to the forefront and makes things happen,” she says.

During the workshop, graduate and undergraduate students from MIT, Harvard University, and Tufts University worked in three cross-institutional groups that each tackled a separate energy-related issue on Martha’s Vineyard. One group addressed transportation, another focused on agriculture, and the third looked at the issue of the economic stability of year-round Martha’s Vineyard residents. With the help of design thinking experts from Viessmann, a German manufacturer of heating, industrial, and refrigeration systems, the students say they experienced a continuous state of creative flow that produced innovative results.

At the beginning of the week, students were introduced to the conditions on Martha’s Vineyard and to the basics of design thinking. As the workshop progressed, the group explored more complex topics that presented new opportunities and challenges.

Through brainstorming sessions involving hundreds of sticky notes, LEGO prototypes, and numerous cups of coffee, each team devised a unique remedy for carbon reduction on the island. At the end of the week, each group presented their solutions to Martha’s Vineyard residents and stakeholders.

Antje Danielson, MITEI’s director of education, led the effort, assisted by Aisling O’Grady, a MITEI project coordinator. They engaged a series of experts, Martha’s Vineyard stakeholders, and industry leaders to help teach and work with the students. The workshop was also connected to National Science Foundation-funded research that Danielson performs on model-based reasoning, which is closely related to design thinking.

Rob Hannemann ScD ’75 was the main point of contact on the island and initially proposed the idea of a collaboration between MITEI and Martha’s Vineyard.

“My goal in working with the Institute was to tap MITEI’s expertise,” he says. He believes that this collaboration is mutually beneficial as it not only helps Martha’s Vineyard work toward its goal of net-zero carbon, but also provides MIT with “a conceptual test bed” where researchers can study the effects of clean energy technologies on a micro scale.

In the workshop, Danielson introduced students to the process of design thinking to see how group dynamics were affected in collaborative environments.

“Every grad student starts off wanting to change the world,” she says. “But how do they get from, ‘I want to change the world’ to ‘This is a project that I can do in a year for my master’s degree’?”

Danielson believes that the distinctly cooperative nature of the design thinking model and other methods can play key roles in helping students gain a more comprehensive understanding of their respective fields and develop actionable plans. She says she is excited to see where the ideas generated in the workshop may go.

“Many communities in the U.S. have now set timelines for going to net-zero carbon — not an easy task. The collaboration with Martha’s Vineyard allows us to train our students in this area,” she says. “By working on a real example, they can practice using new tools and apply their skills in a safe but meaningful way.”

This workshop was supported by the National Science Foundation and Shell. 

Aaron Weber contributed to this article.

Combining artificial intelligence with their passions

Computational thinking will be the mark of an MIT education when the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing opens this fall, and glimpses of what’s to come were on display during the final reception of a three-day celebration of the college Feb. 26-28.

In a tent filled with electronic screens, students and postdocs took turns explaining how they had created something new by combining computing with topics they felt passionate about, including predicting panic selling on Wall Street, analyzing the filler ingredients in common drugs, and developing more energy-efficient software and hardware. The poster session featured undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs from each of MIT’s five schools. Eight projects are highlighted here.

Low-cost screening tool for genetic mutations linked to autism

Autism is thought to have a strong genetic basis, but few of the genetic mutations responsible have been found. In collaboration with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, MIT researchers are using AI to explore autism’s hidden origins. 

Working with his advisors, Bonnie Berger and Po-Ru Loh, professors of math and medicine at MIT and Harvard respectively, graduate student Maxwell Sherman has helped develop an algorithm to detect previously unidentified mutations in people with autism which cause some cells to carry too much or too little DNA. 

The team has found that up to 1 percent of people with autism carry the mutations, and that inexpensive consumer genetic tests can detect them with a mere saliva sample. Hundreds of U.S. children who carry the mutations and are at risk for autism could be identified this way each year, researchers say.  

“Early detection of autism gives kids earlier access to supportive services,” says Sherman, “and that can have lasting benefits.” 

Can deep learning models be trusted?

As AI systems automate more tasks, the need to evaluate their decisions and alert the public to possible failures has taken on new urgency. In a project with the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, graduate student Lily Weng is helping to build an efficient, general framework for quantifying how easily deep neural networks can be tricked or misled into making mistakes.

Working with a team led by Pin-Yu Chen, a researcher at IBM, and Luca Daniel, a professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), Weng developed a method that reports how much each individual input can be altered before the neural network makes a mistake. The team is now expanding the framework to larger, and more general neural networks, and developing tools to quantify their level of vulnerability based on different ways of measuring input-alteration. The work has spawned a series of papers, summarized in a recent MIT-IBM blog post.

Mapping the spread of Ebola virus

By the time the Ebola virus spread from Guinea and Liberia to Sierra Leone in 2014, the government was prepared. It quickly closed its schools and shut its borders with the two countries. Still, relative to its population, Sierra Leone fared worse than its neighbors, with 14,000 suspected infections and 4,000 deaths.

Marie Charpignon, a graduate student in the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS), wanted to know why. Her search became a final project for Network Science and Models, a class taught by Patrick Jaillet, the Dugald C. Jackson Professor in EECS. 

In a network analysis of trade, migration, and World Health Organization data, Charpignon discovered that a severe shortage of medical resources seemed to explain why Ebola had caused relatively more devastation in Sierra Leone, despite the country’s precautions.

“Sierra Leone had one doctor for every 30,000 residents, and the doctors were the first to be infected,” she says. “That further reduced the availability of medical help.” 

If Sierra Leone had not acted as decisively, she says, the outbreak could have been far worse. Her results suggest that epidemiology models should factor in where hospitals and medical staff are clustered to better predict how an epidemic will unfold.

An AI for sustainable, economical buildings

When labor is cheap, buildings are designed to use fewer materials, but as labor costs rise, design choices shift to inefficient but easily constructed buildings. That’s why much of the world today favors buildings made of standardized steel-reinforced concrete, says graduate student Mohamed Ismail.

AI is now changing the design equation. In collaboration with TARA, a New Delhi-based nonprofit, Ismail and his advisor, Caitlin Mueller, an associate professor in the Department of Architecture and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, are using computational tools to reduce the amount of reinforced concrete in India’s buildings.

“We can, once again, make structural performance part of the architectural design process, and build exciting, elegant buildings that are also efficient and economical,” says Ismail. 

The work involves calculating how much load a building can bear as the shape of its design shifts. Ismael and Mueller developed an optimization algorithm to compute a shape that would maximize efficiency and provide a sculptural element. The hybrid nature of reinforced concrete, which is both liquid and solid, brittle and ductile, was one challenge they had to overcome. Making sure the models would translate on the ground, by staying in close contact with the client, was another.

“If something didn’t work, I could remotely connect to my computer at MIT, adjust the code, and have a new design ready for TARA within an hour,” says Ismail. 

Robots that understand language

The more that robots can engage with humans, the more useful they become. That means asking for feedback when they get confused and seamlessly absorbing new information as they interact with us and their environment. Ideally, this means moving to a world in which we talk to robots instead of programming them. 

In a project led by Boris Katz, a researcher at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Nicholas Roy, a professor in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, graduate student Yen-Ling Kuo has designed a set of experiments to understand how humans and robots can cooperate and what robots must learn to follow commands.

In one video game experiment, volunteers are asked to drive a car full of bunnies through an obstacle course of walls and pits of flames. It sounds like “absurdist comedy,” Kuo admits, but the goal is straightforward: to understand how humans plot a course through hazardous conditions while interpreting the actions of others around them. Data from the experiments will be used to design algorithms that help robots to plan and explain their understanding of what others are doing.

A deep learning tool to unlock your inner artist 

Creativity is thought to play an important role in healthy aging, with research showing that creative people are better at adapting to the challenges of old age. The trouble is, not everyone is in touch with their inner artist. 

“Maybe they were accountants, or worked in business and don’t see themselves as creative types,” says Guillermo Bernal, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab. “I started to think, what if we could leverage deep learning models to help people explore their creative side?”

With Media Lab professor Pattie Maes, Bernal developed Paper Dreams, an interactive storytelling tool that uses generative models to give the user a shot of inspiration. As a sketch unfolds, Paper Dreams imagines how the scene could develop further and suggests colors, textures, and new objects for the artist to add. A “serendipity dial” lets the artist decide how off-beat they want the suggestions to be.

“Seeing the drawing and colors evolve in real-time as you manipulate them is a magical experience,” says Bernal, who is exploring ways to make the platform more accessible.

Preventing maternal deaths in Rwanda

The top cause of death for new mothers in Rwanda are infections following a caesarean section. To identify at-risk mothers sooner, researchers at MIT, Harvard Medical School, Brigham Women’s Hospital, and Partners in Health, Rwanda, are developing a computational tool to predict whether a mother’s post-surgical wound is likely to be infected.  

Researchers gathered C-section wound photos from 527 women, using health workers who captured the pictures with their smartphones 10 to 12 days after surgery. Working with his advisor, Richard Fletcher, a researcher in MIT’s D-Lab, graduate student Subby Olubeko helped train a pair of models to pick out the wounds that developed into infections.  When they tested the logistic regression model on the full dataset, it gave almost perfect predictions. 

The color of the wound’s drainage, and how bright the wound appears at its center, are two of the features the model picks up on, says Olubeko. The team plans to run a field experiment this spring to collect wound photos from a more diverse group of women and to shoot infrared images to see if they reveal additional information.

Do native ads shape our perception of the news?

The migration of news to the web has given advertisers the ability to place ever more personalized, engaging ads amid high-quality news stories. Often masquerading as legitimate news, so-called “native” ads, pushed by content recommendation networks, have brought badly needed revenue to the struggling U.S. news industry. But at what cost?

“Native ads were supposed to help the news industry cope with the financial crisis, but what if they’re reinforcing the public’s mistrust of the media and driving readers away from quality news?” says graduate student Manon Revel

Claims of fake news dominated the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, but politicized native ads were also common. Curious to measure their reach, Revel joined a project led by Adam Berinsky, a professor in MIT’s Department of Political ScienceMunther Dahleh, a professor in EECS and director of IDSS, Dean Eckles, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and Ali Jadbabaie, a CEE professor who is associate director of IDSS.  

Analyzing a sample of native ads that popped up on readers’ screens before the election, they found that 25 percent could be considered highly political, and that 75 percent fit the description of clickbait. A similar trend emerged when they looked at coverage of the 2018 midterm elections. The team is now running experiments to see how exposure to native ads influences how readers rate the credibility of real news. 

Chernobyl: How bad was it?

Not long after midnight on April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power accident began. Workers were conducting a test at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine when their operations spun out of control. Unthinkably, the core of the plant’s reactor No. 4 exploded, first blowing off its giant concrete lid, then letting a massive stream of radiation into the air.

Notoriously, the Soviet Union kept news of the disaster quiet for a couple of days. By the time the outside world knew about it, 148 men who had been on the Chernobyl site — firefighters and other workers — were already being treated in the special radiation unit of a Moscow hospital. And that was just one sliver of the population that wound up seeking medical care after Chernobyl. 

By the end of the summer of 1986, Moscow hospitals alone had treated about 15,000 people exposed to Chernobyl radiation. The Soviet republics of Ukraine and Belarus combined to treat about 40,000 patients in hospitals due to radiation exposure in the same period of time; in Belarus, about half were children.

And while 120,000 residents were hastily evacuated from the “Zone of Alienation” around Chernobyl, about 600,000 emergency workers eventually went into the area, trying to seal the reactor and make the area safe again. About 31,000 soldiers camped out near the reactor, where radioactivity reached about 1,000 times the normal levels within a week, and contaminated the drinking water.

Which leads to the question: How bad was Chernobyl? A 2006 United Nations report contends Chernobyl caused 54 deaths. But MIT Professor Kate Brown, for one, is skeptical about that figure. As a historian of science who has written extensively about both the Soviet Union and nuclear technology, she decided to explore the issue at length.

The result is her new book, “Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future,” published this month by W.W. Norton and Co. In it, Brown brings new research to bear on the issue: She is the first historian to examine certain regional archives where the medical response to Chernobyl was most extensively chronicled, and has found reports and documents casting new light on the story.

Brown does not pinpoint a death-toll number herself. Instead, through her archival research and on-the-ground reporting, she examines the full range of ways radiation has affected residents throughout the region, while explaining how Soviet politics helped limit our knowledge of the incident.

“I wrote this book so it’s something we take a look at more seriously,” says Brown, a professor in MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society.

Lying to themselves

To see how the effects of Chernobyl could be much more widespread than previously acknowledged, consider a pattern Brown observed from her archival work: Scientists and officials at the local and regional levels examined the effects of Chernobyl on people quite extensively, even performing controlled studies and other robust techniques, but other Soviet officials minimized the evidence of major health consequences.

“Part of the problem is the Soviets lied to themselves,” says Brown. “On the ground it [the impact] was very clear, but at higher levels, there were ministers whose job was to report good health.” Soviet officials, Brown adds, would “massage the numbers” as the data ascended in the state bureaucracy.

“Everybody was making the record look better by the time it go to Moscow,” Brown says. “And I can show that.”

Then too, the effects of Chernobyl’s radiation have been diffuse. As Brown discovered, 298 workers at a wool factory in the city of Chernihiv, about 50 miles from Chernobyl, were given “liquidator status” due to their health problems. This is the same designation applied to emergency personnel working at the Chernobyl site itself.

Why were the wool workers so exposed to radiation? As Brown found after investigating the Chernihiv wool factory itself, Soviet authorities had workers kill livestock from the Zone of Alienation — and then send their useable parts for processing. The wool factory workers had become sick because they were dealing with wool from highly contaminated sheep. Such scenarios may have been significantly overlooked in some Chernobyl assessments.

A significant section of “Manual for Survival” — the title comes from some safety instructions written for local residents — also explores the accident’s effects on the region’s agricultural economy. In Belarus, one-third of milk and one-fifth of meat was too contaminated to use in 1987, according to the official in charge of food production in the state, and levels became worse the following year. At the same time, in the Ukraine, between 30 and 90 percent of milk in “clean” areas was judged too contaminated to drink.

As part of her efforts to study Chernobyl’s effects in person, Brown also ventured into the forests and marshes near Chernobyl, accompanying American and Finnish scientists  — who are among the few to have extensively studied the area’s wildlife in the field. They have found, among other things, the decimation of parts of the ecosystem, including dramatically fewer pollinators (such as bees) in higher-radiation places, and thus radically reduced numbers of fruit trees and shrubs. Brown also directly addresses scientific disagreements over such findings, while noting that some of the most negative conclusions about the regional ecosystems have stemmed from extensive on-the-ground investigations of it.

Additionally, disputes over the effects of Chernobyl also rumble on because, as Brown acknowledges, it is “easy to deny” that any one occurence of cancer is due to radiation exposure. As Brown notes in the book, “a correlation does not prove a connection,” despite increased rates of cancer and other illnesses in the region.

Still, in “Manual for Survival,” Brown does suggest that the higher end of existing death estimates seems plausible. The Ukrainian state pays benefits to about 35,000 people whose spouses apparently died from Chernobyl-caused illnesses. Some scientists have told her they think 150,000 deaths is a more likely baseline for the Ukraine alone. (There are no official or unofficial counts for Belarus and western Russia.)

Chernobyl: This past isn’t even past

Due to the long-term nature of some forms of radiation, Chernobyl’s effects continue today — to an extent that is also under-studied. In the book’s epilogue, Brown visits a forest in the Ukraine where people pick blueberries for export, with each batch being tested for radiation. However, Brown observed, bundles of blueberries over the accepted radiation limit are not necessarily discarded. Instead, berries from those lots are mixed in with cleaner blueberries, so each remixed batch as a whole falls under the regulatory limit. People outside the Ukraine, she writes, “may wake to a breakfast of Chernobyl blueberries” without knowing it.  

Brown emphasizes that her goal is not primarily to alarm readers, but to push research forward. She says she would like her audience — general readers, undergraduates, scientists — to think deeply about how apparently settled science may sometimes rely on contingent conclusions developed in particular political circumstances.

“I would like scientists to know a bit more about the history behind the science,” Brown says.

Other scholars say “Manual for Survival” is an important contribution to our understanding of Chernobyl. J.R. McNeill, a historian at Georgetown University, says Brown has shed new light on Chernobyl by illuminating “decades of official efforts to suppress its grim truths.” Alison MacFarlane, director of the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy at George Washington University, and Former director of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says the book effectively “uncovers the devastating effects” of Chernobyl.

For her part, Brown says one additional aim in writing the book was to help us remind ourselves that our inventions and devices are fallible. We need to be vigilant to avoid future disasters along the lines of Chernobyl.

“I think it could be a guide to the future if we’re not a little bit more thoughtful, and a little more transparent” than the Soviet officials were, Brown says.

Making a path to ethical, socially-beneficial artificial intelligence

Toward the close of the three-day celebration of the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, there was one inescapable takeaway: “We are at an inflection point. With the progressing technologies of artificial intelligence, we are on the verge of incredible things,” said IBM Executive Vice President John E. Kelly.
 
Less clear to many participants and audience members after a whirlwind of TED-like talks, demonstrations, and discussion was whether advanced computation can truly work primarily for the benefit of humanity.
 
“We are undergoing a massive shift that can make the world a better place,” noted David Siegel, chairman of Two Sigma Investments. “But I fear we could move in a direction that is far from an algorithmic utopia.”
 
Meeting the challenges of artificial intelligence

Many speakers at the three-day celebration, which was held on Feb. 26-28, called for an approach to education, research, and tool-making that combines collective knowledge from the technology, humanities, arts, and social science fields, throwing the double-edged promise of the new machine age into stark relief.

As Melissa Nobles, the Kenan Sahin Dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, introduced the final panel of the celebration, she reinforced the need for such an approach, noting that that the humanities, social sciences, and arts are grappling “with the ways in which computation is changing the world,” and that “technologists themselves must much more deeply understand what they are doing, how they are deeply changing human life.”

The final panel was “Computing for the People: Ethics and AI,” moderated by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In a conversation afterward, Nobles also emphasized that the goal of the new college is to advance computation and to give all students a greater “awareness of the larger political, social context in which we’re all living.” That is the MIT vision for developing “bilinguals” — engineers, scholars, professionals, civic leaders, and policymakers who have both superb technical expertise and an understanding of complex societal issues that is gained from study in the humanities, arts, and social sciences.  

The perils of speed and limited perspective
 
The five panelists on “Computing for the People” — representing industry, academia, government, and philanthropy — contributed particulars to the vision of a society infused with those bilinguals, and attested to the perils posed by an overly-swift integration of advanced computing into all domains of modern existence.
 
“I think of AI as jetpacks and blindfolds that will send us careening in whatever direction we’re already headed,” said Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab. “It’s going to make us more powerful but not necessarily more wise.”
 
The key problem, according to Ito, is that machine learning and AI have to date been exclusively the province of engineers, who tend to talk only with each other. This means they can deny accountability when their work proves socially, politically, or economically destructive. “Asked to explain their code, technological people say: ‘We’re just technical people, we don’t deal with racial or political problems,’” Ito said.

Can AI embody advance justice, strengthen democracy?

Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, zeroed in on the value void at the center of this new technology.

“If we go deep [into AI tool-making] without a view as to whether AI can advance justice, whether it can strengthen our democracy, if we engage this enterprise without those questions driving our discourse, we are doomed,” he said.
 
As a case in point, he cited the predictive analytics of AI that more frequently deny parole to black men than to white men with comparable records. “So AI is in fact reifying and amplifying rather than correcting the historic biases we see every day in America,” Walker said. “Will AI be a lever for good, or simply compound disadvantages built into our systems?”
 
Walker also noted that during the recent congressional hearings featuring the testimony of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, politicians demonstrated ignorance about the workings of social media platforms and of cellphone technology.

“At any other hearing of importance in our society, there would be some smart person sitting behind a congressperson to say, [of the person testifying] ‘Challenge him, he’s wrong,’” said Walker. But, he continued, “there are very few people on the Hill working in the public interest on this larger issue of the fourth industrial revolution.”
 
Collaborations to make a better world

Panelists also emphasized that the speed of the current technological transformation threatens to undermine efforts to control it. “By the time we realize there’s something we must do to right the ship, the ship will be in the middle of the ocean,” said Ursula Burns, executive chairman and CEO of VEON, Ltd.
 
But Burns and her fellow panelists believe the new MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, by bringing together computer scientists with scholars from the social sciences and humanities, could help reverse the potentially destructive course of AI.
 
“It’s not just about getting a whole bunch of computer scientists writing new programs, it is about making the world a better place,” Burns said. “It’s active engagement, broad knowledge, and responsibility to other people.”

Jennifer Chayes, a technical fellow and managing director of Microsoft Research New England, described an initiative in her labs to promote “fairness, accountability, transparency, and ethics,” or FATE, in software platforms and information systems.
 
“It’s a nascent field that brings together legal scholars, ethicists, social scientists, and people in AI to ask how we can make some decisions together in a more equitable fashion,” she said
 
Chayes also highlighted a method she called “algorithmic greenlining,” which makes it possible to purge inherent bias from decision-making codes that determine who in a particular population gets into a school or receives a loan. “We have a fairness component that takes an objective function and optimizes the data in a way that amplifies equities, rather than inequities,” she said.
 
Accountability and human-centered AI

As U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, now the director of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said he learned that “accountability as an algorithmic matter isn’t automatic,” he said. “It needs to be a criterion for people designing AI.”
 
Machines easily amplify “crummy data,” said Carter, so unless system designers establish “data standards and transparency, you’re just massaging yesterday into a perfected version of then rather than creating ‘tomorrow,'” he said.
 
Throughout his career, which involved deploying new technologies in the most perilous of circumstances, Carter said he always felt the imperative to act and think with broad ethical considerations in mind. In 2012, he recalled, he issued a directive at the Department of Defense dealing with the use of autonomous weapons.

“It said that with any decisions to use lethal force on behalf of our people, there must be a human involved in the decision — a directive that is still in force to this day,” he said.
 
Since machines now weigh in on matters of life and death, justice and freedom, there is an urgency to creating an ethical, socially-informed culture in the fields of AI and data science. Panelists expressed the hope that the new MIT Schwarzman College of Computing would serve as an incubator for more and much stronger interdisciplinary approaches to research and education.
 
The future for bilinguals

“With this new college, we could not just diversify tech, but technify everything else and really work on the hardest problems together in a collaborative way,” said Megan Smith ’86, SM ’88, former U.S. chief technology officer and founder and CEO of shift7. “Feeding 22 million children in a free and reduced lunch program is a big data problem, more important than self-driving cars, and it’s the kind of computing I think we should do on inequality and poverty.”

Panelists also voiced confidence that the new college will serve as a model to other higher education institutions seeking to engage the engineering and liberal arts fields to solve important societal problems collaboratively. They discussed the importance of faculty and students representing not just a range of disciplines, but a range of human beings, people whose lived experiences are relevant to discerning the ethical and societal implications of AI tools.

The panelists also welcomed the opportunity to help nurture the MIT bilinguals — students with expertise in both technical and liberal arts fields — who could swiftly assume positions as policy advisors and leaders in government and industry.
 
“MIT is going to be the anchor of what we will know in this society as public interest technology,” predicted Darren Walker. “What MIT is doing will set the pace for every other university that wants to be relevant in the future.”

Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial team: Leda Zimmerman and Emily Hiestand

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