In 2019, Springer Nature published its first machine-generated book, on Lithium ion batteries. Instead of an author, the cover of the book is adorned with the name of an algorithm: Beta Writer. As Springer Nature said, the “prototype book provides an overview of the latest research in the growing field of lithium-ion batteries,” adding that it “aims to help researchers effectively manage information overload in this discipline”.
What was hailed as a sensation in the public is hardly surprising. It has long been known that AI can write books, and it can do so more cheaply than a real human academic. However, a crucial question is whether it is a means to advance knowledge, understanding and an exercise in critical thinking, or whether it is simply a packaging and delivery system. mechanical, an attempt at automated cataloging and repackaging of information.
It’s tempting to imagine what would happen if we used Beta Writer to write a text about philosophy or logic and its history, say, a very short introduction. Why? Because philosophy aims to study and resolve general and fundamental questions, such as those concerning existence, reason, knowledge, values, body and mind, thought and language? Or because philosophy encompassed all knowledge and all fields of science, at least from a historical point of view? Now, by no means. That wouldn’t be much of a challenge for Beta Writer. The big challenge for Beta Writer would be to write such an introduction in a gender sensitive and anti-discriminatory way. It is a challenge which the scientist and the academic writer continually face. Algorithms only reproduce gender stereotypes and canonical readings for which we, the scientific communities, are responsible. This is not to say that future machine-generated books could not be “debiased”, but it is important to keep in mind that technology will not be a solution to the fundamental challenges of gender equity and of discrimination. It is up to us to use these techniques to uncover gender stereotypes and canonized readings. This is one of the lessons we can draw from the feminist philosophy of science, which has deconstructed a naïve conception of science as a rigorously neutral and objective enterprise.
Over the past decades, the global community has made great efforts to inspire and engage women and girls in science. Yet women and girls continue to be excluded from full participation in science. A significant gender gap has persisted over the years at all levels of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In order to ensure women and girls full and equal access to and participation in science, and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed February 11 International Day of Women and Girls in Science in 2015. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is implemented by UNESCO and UN-Women, in collaboration with institutions and partners of the civil society that aim to promote women and girls in science. Three days later, on January 14, UNESCO celebrates World Logic Day every year. The proclamation of World Logic Day by UNESCO, in association with the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH), aims to bring the intellectual history, conceptual meaning and practical implications of logic to the attention of interdisciplinary scientific communities and the general public. In addition, the celebration of World Logic Day also contributes to the promotion of a culture of peace, dialogue and mutual understanding, based on the advancement of education and science. These are undoubtedly ambitious goals.
Recognizing and honoring the role of women in logic, as agents of change, was the stated goal of the workshop “Women of Logic: Their Impact on Modern Logic” which took place virtually at the FernUniversität de Hagen, Germany on February 14 this year. . The workshop was organized by Jens Lemanski and Andrea Reichenberger, as well as Claudia Anger, who is doing her doctorate in logic. The program included presentations by scholars from Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, who critically discussed the extraordinary role of female logicians in the history and philosophy of logic, at the same time arguing for gender equality in order to make logic more open, diverse and effective. In this way, technical know-how was combined with interdisciplinary research, problem solving and social skills. To cite just a few examples: Charles Sanders Peirce gave Christine Ladd-Franklin Logic Algebra a prominent place in Studies in logic, which he edited and published in 1883. Today, the American feminist philosopher, mathematician, and pragmatist Christine Ladd-Franklin, whose intellectual achievements had long been marginalized, is rediscovered in the history of logic. Another example: compared to the “logical heroes” like Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, the first works of Margaret Masterman on logic, language and machine translation or the role of Alice Ambrose in the education of American women after -war are hitherto almost unknown. Without forgetting the work of Ruth Barcan Marcus on modal logic or the contributions of Val Plumford to paraconsistent logic.
The highlight was a panel discussion with Francine F. Abeles (Kean University, NJ, USA), Carolin Antos-Kuby (University of Konstanz) and Ursula Martin (University of Edinburgh, Wadham College Oxford, UK) . Francine F. Abeles was Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Computer Science at Kean University in Union, NJ, USA and Head of Graduate Programs (Masters level) in Mathematics, Computer Science, Statistics, and Mathematics Education. She co-edited a Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Mathematics Proceedings and edited three volumes in the Lewis Carroll Series Pamphlets for the University Press of Virginia. She is the author of nearly a hundred journal articles on topics of geometry, number theory, voting theory, linear algebra, logic and their history. Of particular note is his co-edition of the book Modern Logic 1850–1950, East and West (2016), with Mark E. Fuller, now Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin at Janesville.
Ursula Martin is a Professor in the School of Computing at the University of Edinburgh and Senior Researcher at Wadham College, Oxford. She is best known for her work on Ada Lovelace and her activities to encourage women in the fields of computer science and mathematics. She works at the interface of mathematics and computer science, where her contributions include an explanation of the power of logic to reason about practical systems with feedback, and results linking randomness and symmetry. Carolin Antos-Kuby is assistant professor at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Konstanz and researcher at the Zukunftskolleg. She works in the area of the philosophy of mathematics and logic, with an emphasis on forcing as a mathematical technique and a philosophical concept.
“The integration of women in the history of logic represents an important contribution to gender sensitivity and diversity in research and teaching”,
says Dr. Andrea Reichenberger. In the past, thinking women usually struggled, says PD Dr. Jens Lemanski:
“The contribution of female logicians was almost systematically marginalized and ignored in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many results of female logicians were not published until years later or were presented as the achievements of their male colleagues.
The two researchers thus promote a new perspective:
“It is not about countering a male cult of genius with a female cult, but about a revised understanding of what was and is the logic: a collective enterprise”,
“And it’s about examining the contributions of women as part of knowledge cultures and scientific communities in logic and its history.” Rewriting the past, she said, helps create a more equal future.
This piece was originally published in German on the Blog Gender