Sheila Jasanoff, 2022 Pauline Newman Distinguished Speaker in Science, Technology, and Society

Apr 7, 5:00 p.m.

Taylor Hall 203

Captain or Captive: Human Agency in a New Machine Age

We have tended to see technology as empowering us to do things we would not be able to do without the aid of tools and machines. Yet, as the 21st century marches on, the theme that is gaining ground is disempowerment. Technology advances too fast, intrudes on our privacy, mines us for information, shapes our desires, and exposes us to unseen and uncontrollable hazards. And the list could go on. So, have we humans become captives of technological progress and are no longer captains of our own fates? Jasanoff will argue that, to regain control over the machine world we have created, we will need to fundamentally rethink the principles of constitutional democracy and to produce new ethical and legal norms for citizenship in a technological age.

Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School. A pioneer in the social sciences, she explores the role of science and technology in the law, politics, and policy of modern democracies. Her books include The Fifth Branch, Science at the Bar, Designs on Nature, The Ethics of Invention, and Can Science Make Sense of Life? She founded and directs the STS Program at Harvard; previously, she was founding chair of the STS Department at Cornell. She has held distinguished visiting professorships at leading universities in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the US. Jasanoff served on the AAAS Board of Directors and as President of the Society for Social Studies of Science. Her honors include the SSRC’s Hirschman prize, the Humboldt Foundation’s Reimar-Lüst award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, foreign member of the British Academy and the Royal Danish Academy, and member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds AB, JD, and PhD degrees from Harvard, and honorary doctorates from the Universities of Twente and Liège.

Audience members must present a Vassar College ID or supply proof of full vaccination (vaccination or booster within the last six months) or a negative COVID-19 test taken 24 hours before coming to campus. Masks are required indoors for everyone except speakers or performers who can maintain a six-foot distance from the audience.


Sheila Jasanoff
Sheila Jasanoff