Virginia Tech Philosopher to Discuss Human Enhancement Technologies and Disabilities on Jan 22
Virginia Tech philosophy professor Ashley Shew will deliver a special invited talk on human enhancement technologies and disabilities at 11 am. Friday, January 22, in Philips Hall (Building 06-124 in the Performing Arts Center) at Cal Poly.
Shew’s talk is titled “We Can Rebuild You: Disabled Bodies and Technological Imagination.”
Disabled people are often test cases for new technologies that may become widely used by nondisabled people. For instance, exoskeletons developed to help those with paralysis walk again also have a dual-use of helping workers and soldiers lift heavy equipment over greater distances. News reports suggest that bionic technologies—from wearables to implantables—are set to radically alter life in the very near future, calling them "game-changers."
However, communities of disability also challenge popular narratives about technology and disrupt common tropes about how to treat disability. Shew, a recent amputee, will contrast this pop discussion against the reality of actual, lived experiences.
She will focus on (a) prosthetic technologies for limb amputees and exoskeletons for people with spinal cord injuries, (b) the social pressure to walk, and (c) pop culture and journalistic coverage of paralympians, “Dancing with the Stars” contestants, and more—highlighting tensions between authenticity and enhancement, disability and superability, and being fixed and being okay with oneself.
The talk is organized by the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at Cal Poly, one of the world’s leading research groups in science and technology ethics. Dr. Patrick Lin, research director and an associate philosophy professor, said, “Hype always surrounds new technologies and drives a lot of things, from market investments to military policy. That’s why it’s vital to clear through the hype to see how technologies are really unfolding on the ground. Dr. Shew will help give us that picture, which is even more important as it affects disabled folks who are among the most marginalized and invisible in our society.”
Shew earned her PhD and two master’s degrees from Virginia Tech, where she is an assistant professor in Science & Technology in Society. As an interdisciplinary scholar, she works to extend philosophies of technology into conversation with animal studies and disability studies, with a focus on emerging technologies.
The event is free and open to the public. The presentation is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts’ Lottery Speakers Fund; the Disability Resource Center (DRC); the Science, Technology and Society (STS) Minors Program, and the Philosophy Department.
EVENT FLYER: http://ethics.calpoly.edu/flyer_ashleyshew.pdf