Technology's role in society to be discussed at Purdue conference

July 13, 2015  

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. –Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, facial recognition, Internet surveillance, and data science promise to bring a new dawn of safety and insights to improve society—while simultaneously raising legitimate concerns about unforeseen consequences or malicious uses.

To spur more conversation about these issues, Purdue University is hosting a free, public two-day conference on the role of technology in society called "Dawn or Doom2: the risks and rewards of the new technology explosion."

The conference will be held Sept. 24 and 25 in Purdue's Stewart Center.

At the event, Purdue faculty experts and leading national authorities will present their perspectives on the current technology explosion, explore conditions that will foster innovation and investment into the next generation of technology, and address the big-picture issues where both excitement and alarm are appropriate responses.

This is the second year for the Dawn or Doom conference; the first event in 2014 attracted more than 2,000 people to the sessions.

Gerry McCartney, Purdue's CIO, vice president for information technology, and Oesterle Professor of Information Technology, says conversations about technology are important on campus, in churches and communities, and across the nation.

"Although we're seeing more and more that although technology benefits our lives in many ways, any new technology also often brings with it a new set of problems and unforeseen consequences," McCartney says. "With these emerging technologies - things such as data science, facial recognition and artificial intelligence - it's important for us to have discussions about the benefits and risks before the technologies become so commonplace that there's little we can do about how they are being used."

Keynote speakers for the event include Barton Gellman and Steve Lohr.

Gellman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been writing about NSA surveillance for The Washington Post based on documents provided to him by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Gellman is also the author of an upcoming book on Internet privacy and surveillance.

Lohr is a technology reporter for The New York Times and author of a new book on data science, "Data-ism: The Revolution Transforming Decision Making, Consumer Behavior, and Almost Everything Else."

For the 2015 Dawn or Doom2, planned conference tracks include:

* "Data science, privacy, and surveillance"

* "Tech policy and legislation in a gigaspeed world"

* "Advanced manufacturing, robotics, and artificial intelligence"

* "Space travel and exploration"

"Although the presentations are the main draw, there are other things happening at the same time, so there is always something worth checking out. One of the most popular things from last year was the graphic artists, who illustrated a graphic summary of each speaker's presentation as they talked. People in the audience enjoyed watching that, and it was popular on social media. We plan to have the artists back again this year."

In addition to the presentations, Dawn or Doom2 will include four other events.

Outdoor movie: On Wednesday, Sept. 23, Dawn or Doom2 will host a family-friendly outdoor showing of a popular movie about technology.

"The outdoor movie showing is especially fun because we have a second screen that displays everyone's snarky Twitter comments while the movie is playing," McCartney says.

"Writing about technology" panel discussion: At this session, journalists from leading national technology publications and outlets will discuss the excitement and challenges they experience while reporting on technology.

Dawn or Doom2 writing contest: This year's Dawn or Doom includes a student writing contest. Participating students will be asked to attend one or more of the Dawn or Doom sessions and write a piece related to the presentation. The contest is open to any student currently enrolled at a Purdue campus.

Dawn or Doom2 art exhibit: Art in its various forms often comments on technologies and their role in society, and helps us to understand, rethink, and put these technologies in context. This year's conference includes a concurrent art exhibit featuring some of the nation's leading artists who are using their art to comment on technology.

To receive information about parking and other logistics, as well as updates on speakers and schedule changes, attendees are encouraged to preregister for the event at Parking passes are available to the first 500 campus visitors who register. 

Video recordings and graphic illustrations from the 2014 Dawn or Doom event can be found at

Additional information about the event can also be found on the Dawn or Doom2 Twitter and Facebook social media pages.

Writer: Steve Tally, 765-494-9809,, Twitter: sciencewriter

Source: Gerry McCartney, 765-496-2270,, Twitter: @gerrymccartney 

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