Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University


STS Circle

The STS Circle at Harvard meets weekly during the academic semester. For Spring 2024, all meetings are planned to take place in person on Mondays, from 12:15-2:00 p.m., in CGIS South S050, 1730 Cambridge Street unless otherwise noted. Sandwich lunches will be provided. To receive the abstract and bio for each talk, and to register to attend, please join our mailing list.

STS Circle schedule poster

Spring 2024

Jan. 29:
Jules Gill-Peterson (Johns Hopkins, History)
Who Really Invented Gender? Transvestites and the Psychologization of Class
Feb. 5:
Spencer Doyle (Harvard STS and Physics)
Maintaining the Atom: US Nuclear Energy Policy 70 Years After “Atoms for Peace”
Feb. 12:
Paul Thomas Clarke (Harvard, Anthropology)
Risk is the Life Source: Labor and Working-class Consciousness in Johannesburg’s Security Industry
Feb. 26:
David S. Jones (Harvard Medical School/History of Science)
The Health Effects of Air Pollution: The Harvard Six Cities Study as a Generator of Surprises
Mar. 4:
Jacquelene Mwangi (Harvard Law School)
Techno-colonialism vs. Techno-utopianism in Historical Perspective
Mar. 18:
Jason Furman (HKS and Economics)
Economists Can’t Predict the Future, But Can They Agree on the Past?
Mar. 25:
Alexander Rewegan (MIT, HASTS)
Settler Environmentality and the Making of a Post-Prohibition Drug Terroir
Apr. 1:
Swarnabh Ghosh (Harvard STS and Architecture)
Infrastructuration: Colonial Irrigation and the Spacetime of Fossil Capitalism
Apr. 8:
Timothy Loh (MIT, HASTS)
Not Modern Enough: Lexical Anxieties over Jordanian Sign Language
Apr. 15:
Natalie Ngai (Boston College, Communication)
Mediated Animal-human Relations
Apr. 22:
Abigail Coplin (Vassar, Sociology and STS)
Biopolitical Entanglements: The Political Economy and Nationalist Imaginaries of China’s Genetic Data Troves

» More information and past schedules

Science & Democracy Lecture Series

Once a semester, the STS Program, with co-sponsorship from other local institutions, hosts an installation in its Science and Democracy Lecture Series.

Sherry Turkle event poster

Sherry Turkle
In conversation with Sheila Jasanoff and David Kennedy. This is day one of a three-day event: the Conference on AI & Democracy
November 30, 2023, 5:00pm-7:00pm
Tsai Auditorium, CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

These days, supported by large language learning programs, people are offered pretend empathy in chatbots that take the role of therapists, companions, and even lovers. But no matter how convincing, these programs can only provide simulations because they have not known the arc of human life. They cannot put themselves in our place. They feel nothing of the human loss, love, or trouble we describe to them. Or that they represent to us. Yet we are comforted by the simpler vision of the world that they provide. Human relations are rich, messy, and demanding. We clean them up with technology. We feel less vulnerable talking to programs than to people. Here, my focus is not on what generative AI can do, but on what this new category of intimate machine is doing to people and our social worlds.

» Lecture series archive

Workshops and Panels

Conference on AI & Democracy event poster

November 30 - December 2, 2023
Tsai Auditorium, Loeb House & Harvard Kennedy School

Emergent AI technologies are raising ethical and political questions that cut to the heart of what it means to be a democratic citizen in the 21st century. However, the public conversation on AI has been dominated by tech industry leaders who insist that regulating AI is mostly a matter for technical experts. Furthermore, recurrent arguments for prioritizing technological innovation and pursuing global industry dominance have foreclosed wider debate and reinforced a laissez-faire approach to AI development in the U.S. Serious cross-sectoral dialogue and public mobilization are needed if we are to change course.

We aim to animate political consciousness about AI, generate concrete proposals for action both in the U.S. and across national borders, and compel government and industry leaders to move swiftly and decisively to bring greater political accountability to this sector. This event, co-hosted by the Program on Science, Technology, and Society and co-sponsored by the Institute of Politics and the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard Kennedy School, calls for a people’s movement to bring AI development under democratic control and steer it in the service of a progressive human future.

The three-day event will bring together leading voices on AI and related policy issues and feature prominent figures from government, civil society, academia, and the private sector. MIT Professor Sherry Turkle will deliver a keynote lecture titled "Artificial Intimacy: What are People For?" on the evening of November 30. Targeted workshops on December 1 will assess promising fields of action ranging from federal oversight to labor activism, with panels focusing on Labor and Workers, Competition and Security, Regulation and Government, Transparency and Democracy, and Social Movements and NGOs. On the final day, smaller committees will produce working reports that can be widely circulated to stimulate forward movement in the effort to control AI before it controls us.

Co-sponsored by Harvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University Center for the Environment (A Center of the Salata Institute), John and Elizabeth McQuillan, the Harvard Institute of Politics, and the Harvard Kennedy School Carr Center for Human Rights.

» Workshops and panels archive

Program news

Sheila Jasanoff contributed to a recent essay collection by the HKS Carr Center on Human Rights Policy commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The complete publication, entitled “Making a Movement: The History and Future of Human Rights,” can be found here, with a copy of Jasanoff’s essay on science, technology and human rights here.

The Conference on AI & Democracy began on November 30th with a keynote lecture Artificial Intimacy: What are People For? by MIT Professor Sherry Turkle. Panels on December 1st and 2nd brought together leading voices on AI and related policy issues with prominent figures from government, civil society, academia, and the private sector. Featured speakers included Liz Shuler (AFL-CIO), Jody Williams (Nobel Laureate), Rep. Ted Lieu, and former Mayor of NYC Bill de Blasio. Learn more here.

Workshop: Regulatory Challenges in Technological Societies - Dialogue between the U.S. and Brazil, Friday, April 7, 2023, 9:30 -5:00 PM, HKS, Malkin Penthouse, 4th Floor. Click here to learn more.

Spring Science & Democracy lecture is back in-person since 2019. AI for CITIES or CITIES for AI? Who should decide? with Keynote lecturer Bill de Blasio, former Mayor of New York City, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, 5:00 - 7:00 PM, Harvard Science Center, Hall A, 1 Oxford St, Cambridge, MA. Click here to learn more.  

The STS program celebrated its 20th anniversary with a symposium on Science, Technology and the Human Future, Nov 3-5, 2022.

Read the Future Humans anthology, a multi-media speculative fiction curated for the 20th Anniversary of the STS program.

Mak Takahashi's exhibit, Picturing the Invisible, was awarded the 2022 Ziman award by the European Association for the Study of Science & Technology (EASST).

“We need more urgently to seize back the political discourse on life that has empowered this court to present a massively retrograde decision as if it stands on moral high ground,” says Sheila Jasanoff about the recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion.

Sheila Jasanoff wins Holberg Prize, one of the the world’s most prestigious awards in the social sciences.

This year's Science and Democracy Network meeting was held at Harvard from July 27-30, 2022. Check the SDN website for meeting details.

» Program news archive