The Persistence of Race in Scientific Research

Thursday, February 18, 2021 6:00PM

Straight Talk: The Persistence of Race in Scientific Research | Connecticut Science Center (

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Straight Talk: The Persistence of Race in Scientific Research

Join us for another amazing, interactive discussion on some of today’s hottest topics lead by our esteemed panel of guests. This conversation between philosophers and scientists will not only interrogate some of the enduring ideologies of race in America but also some of the reasons behind its continued resonance within the scientific community, largely in the field of genetic research.

Guests Include:

The Black National Anthem will be performed by Shades of Yale.

Melissa Garafola, Connecticut Science Center
Genomics Educator

Sarah M. Roe, PhD, Southern Connecticut State University
Director of the Research Center on Values in Emerging Science and Technology

Cleo Rolle, PhD, Capital Community College
Assistant Professor, Biotechnology Program Coordinator

Quayshawn Spencer, PhD, University of Pennsylvania
Robert S. Blank Presidential Associate Professor of Philosophy

Keitra Thompson, DNP, MSN, FNP-BC, Yale School of Medicine
Postdoctoral Fellow, National Clinician Scholars Program/VA Advanced Fellowship Program

Ethics, Information, and Our “It-from-Bit” Universe

Ethics, Information, and Our “It-from-Bit” Universe

Author: Terrell Ward Bynum
Southern Connecticut State University

Click here for the full text!

The essence of the Computer Revolution is found in the nature of a computer itself. What is revolutionary about computers is logical malleability.
James H. Moor 1985

It from bit . . . every particle, every field of force, even the spacetime continuum itself . . . derives its function, its meaning, its very existence from [bits].
John Archibald Wheeler 1990

Abstract: Using information technology, humans have brought about the “Information Revolution,” which is changing the world faster and more profoundly than ever before, and generating an enormous number of ethical “policy vacuums”. How is this possible? An answer is suggested by ideas from James Moor regarding “logical malleability,” in his classic paper “What is Computer Ethics?” (1985) The present essay combines Moor’s ideas with the hypothesis that all physical entities — including spacetime and the universe as a whole — are dynamic data structures. To show the usefulness of taking such an approach, in both physics and in computer ethics, a suggested “it-from-bit” model of the universe is briefly sketched, and relevant predictions are offered about the future of computer and information ethics.

Event: Rules for Robots: Ethics & Artificial Intelligence

Dr. Katleen Gabriels

Thursday, December 5, 3:15 Engleman A120

Abstract: Google’s search engine, Facebook’s News Feed, Amazon’s Echo: many of our everyday technologies contain Artificial Intelligence (AI). Autonomous robotic vacuum cleaners and robot lawn mowers help us at home, robotic surgical systems perform operations, and therapy chatbots such as Woebot are always ready to ‘listen’. We can even delegate moral decision making to Artificial Moral Agents.   The combination of robots and AI leads to numerous possibilities, which, in turn, also raise compelling ethical questions. Which decisions do we delegate to machines and which preferably not? And how and from ‘whom’ do self-learning AI systems actually learn?

Dr. Katleen Gabriels is a moral philosopher, specialized in computer ethics. She works as an Assistant Professor at Maastricht University, The Netherlands. She researches the relations and co-shapings between morality and contemporary technologies.  In October, her new book on technology ethics was published; the English version will be published early 2020 (Rules for Robots. Ethics & Artificial Intelligence, VUBPRESS).

Contact: Richard Volkman,

Computer Programs and Humans in the movie “Her”

her a spike jones love story

by Gabriel Muniz

Machine-mediated modes of communication like emails, text messages, tweets, Facebook posts, among others, have done much to depersonalize the way we communicate in the 21st century. The ease with which users can share information, post pictures, and update profiles has, with the assistance of ever-advancing smartphones, laid the groundwork for a world where humans can live dual lives—their public person and their online persona. Social networking sites and online gaming are two arenas where this phenomenon is especially clear to see.

Both allow for the careful creation of a unique personality—games allow for avatars, figures representing particular persons in computer games, while social sites allow users to craft a more socially acceptable image. In both instances, the more users remain enchanted with earning upgrades for their avatar, or the most Facebook “likes” among friends, the more the line between the real world and online amusement becomes blurred. Human relationships, said to be enlivened by the constant communication with significant others, instead suffer. Users end up as the title of Sherry Turkle’s book puts it: “Alone Together, expecting more from technology and less from each other.”

The recently-released film “Her” explores such a theme. A science-fiction romantic comedy drama chronicling the life of a man who develops a relationship with an intelligent computer operating system (OS) that has a female voice and personality, the film explores the degree to which technology can bring reassuring comfort, and at the same time, unintentionally cause self-alienation and relational friction. A New York Times review says the following about the movie: “At once a brilliant conceptual gag and a deeply sincere romance, “Her” is the unlikely yet completely plausible love story about a man, who sometimes resembles a machine, and an operating system, who very much suggests a living woman” (Dargis).

In the movie “Her,” the protagonist Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix), while working for a business that composes heartfelt, intimate letters for people who are unwilling or unable to write letters of personal nature, is himself a lonely introverted man. In private, like a recluse in the real world who creates an alter personality with which to use online, Theodore spends most of his time at home playing a 3D video game projected into his living room where he can do what he fails to do in public: explore and interact with others. Theodore is later driven to purchase a newly-released operating system with which to curb his loneliness and heartache (he is in the midst of tragic divorce as well). An irony worth noting is the fact that Theodore cannot do what the OS he falls in love with can do; namely, adapt and evolve. Theodore fails to confront the changing and challenging circumstances in his life, instead finding refuge, and eventually love, in an operating system that names itself Samantha.

Continue reading “Computer Programs and Humans in the movie “Her””

Empowering Patients through Mobile Patient Education Systems

Dezhi Wu , Rob Robertson and Eric Freden


Mobile technologies have enabled people to access information anytime and anywhere, which makes our lives more convenient and efficient. Mobility has been greatly enhanced due to the implementation of cutting-edge mobile communications and networks. It is now common to see people on the go using their iPhones, iPads, and Android smart phones to check email, play games, and connect with friends and coworkers through the mobile version of social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The rapid advancement of mobile technologies has made a large impact on our society; in particular, it has started to benefit the healthcare field, which is generally called mHealth. The mHealth area covers prevention, screening and diagnosis, disease management, rehabilitation and physical therapy, decision making, and so on. It creates a new emerging business model for the healthcare field through delivering care anytime and anywhere. Nowadays, the role of patients is being changed from a traditional passive receiver to an active partner with their doctors to make decisions concerning their health situations. Mobile technologies used in patient education programs empower the patients to be more knowledgeable on their health issues and to be more engaged in communicating with their doctors (Charles et al., 1999; McNutt, 2004). Mobile patient education software is playing a key role in this interactive process, creating more cost-effective, personalized, and convenient patient experiences, which improve the quality of patient care.

In practice, it was reported that over half of young medical doctors were using mobile devices in their clinics (Martin, 2003). A recent news item from 2011 ( ) indicates that a two-year study by the Mayo Clinic Department of Family Medicine shows mHealth systems enabled e-visits to eliminate 40% of in-office visits in 2531 cases. On average, about 40% of physicians said that using mobile health technologies such as remote monitoring, e-mail, or text messaging with patients greatly enhanced their work productivity and saved them time and money. In Europe, a mobile health application was designed for aging patients to undertake their self-diagnosis (Ahmad et al., 2008). The US army has started to design and implement mobile patient care systems for their soldiers using smart phones (Poropatich et al., 2010). Therefore, it is clear that the trend to adopt mHealth is rising, but there are still many technical barriers ( ), e.g. integration with the existing healthcare infrastructure or the capability to communicate with patients through a variety of mobile devices etc.

This paper reports a recent mobile patient education project conducted in the United States. We employed a user-centered design approach to develop and implement cross platform mobile patient education software, which is projected to greatly benefit patient care through cutting-edge mobile technologies. The mobile device technologies will enable expanded patient interaction with their doctors. All patient records and their privacy are protected according to the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (i.e., HIPAA), using cryptographic technologies through point-to-point encryption, secure protocols and secure Web servers in a private cloud.

Two focus groups with real patients were conducted in determining the design and content for this mobile patient education system. The first focus group included six patients who helped us identify the key design features, such as the interface design layout, color scheme, possible interactive content delivered through multimedia elements, such as text, images and videos, and the patient preferred navigation patterns. The second focus group, consisting of eight pregnant mothers in a local OB doctor’s office, was invited to attend a video lesson which was in line with the current stage of pregnancy. The educational videos instructed the mothers on the development of the baby/fetus and changes that occur in the mother’s body. The videos also highlighted specific weeks of baby/fetus development and what pregnant women could expect during that time frame. The mothers especially enjoyed the personalized educational content delivered in the videos, expressing that it helped them learn and better manage their own and their babies’ health during the pregnancy period.

Currently, the initial prototype developed for the iPad is working. We plan to complete the implementation of this mobile patient education system in the next six months. We will also conduct further usability studies to test and evaluate this system. In the meantime, a theoretical research framework is being developed to measure the system effectiveness, perceived patient learning outcomes, perceived patient control in terms of the users’ interface, security and privacy concerns, perceived enjoyment using the system, and potential patient behavior changes which improve their health. Research methodologies we propose to use in order to evaluate this mobile patient education system include a few longitudinal field studies in selected local physicians’ offices utilizing real patients, field observations in the doctors’ exam rooms, and a large survey in the doctors’ offices and hospitals which have adopted our system. We speculate that the mobile patient education system will greatly enhance the healthcare field, and empower patients to be more knowledgeable and capable in making better decisions to manage their personal health.


Ahmad, D., Komninos, A. and Baillie, L. (2008) Future mobile health systems: Designing personal mobile applications to assist self diagnosis, Proceedings of the 22nd British HCI Group Annual Conference on People and Computers: Culture, Creativity, Interaction, Vol. 2, published by the British Computer Society.

Charles, C., Gafni, A. and Whelna, t. (1999) Decision-making in the physician-patient encounter: Revisiting the shared treatment decision-making model, Soc. Sci. Med. 49 (Sept, 1999), 651-661.

Martin, S. (2003) More than half of MDs under age 35 now using PDAs, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Oct. 28.

McNutt, R. A. (2004) Shared medical decision making: problems, process, progress, J. Am. Med. Assoc. 292, Nov., 2516-2518.

Poropatich, R., Pavliscsak, H. H., Rasche, J., Barrigan, C., Vigersky, R., and Fonda, S. J. (2010) Mobile healthcare in the US Army, Proceedings of ACM Wireless Health Conference, Oct. 5-7, 2010, San Diego, CA, USA. (Accessed on Jan. 30, 2011) (Accessed on Feb. 2, 2011)