500 Years Later: Doors and Disputations

By on May 12th, 2018 in Human Impacts, Last Word, Magazine Articles, Societal Impact, Topics

Five hundred years ago, Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg. His scholarly objection to certain practices of the church incited profound and persisting societal change. In the 16th century, church doors were a mode of publication where academics posted propositions in Latin, thus inviting debate. Eventually, postings were no longer written in Latin, but rather in the vernacular of people to better reach society [1], [2].

Similar to this custom of long ago, our authors nail rich scholarship to our portal, thus inviting healthy disputation. In this issue, we considered the value of a mesh of connective vehicles used to overcome the digital divide [3], yet also recognize the dangers of subscribing to technological fix as a social cure-all. We recognized the benefits of UAVs and military robotics, yet also wrestled with tensions between autonomous weapon systems and jus in bello, thereby questioning war practices when weighed upon the scales of just and fair conduct.

Our authors presented methodologies to reform established practices. We applaud our colleagues as robots are designed to better simulate the biological and cognitive processes of humans [4]. We are inspired as robots better infer the psychological disposition of a child with autism, resulting in richer interactions that improve lives [5].

Doors are not only physical portals, but also symbols of transitions. Our community experiences transition as the torch of editorship is passed. We are so grateful for the commendable work of our past “keeper of the threshold.” She gave voice to diverse stakeholders. She steered us across the thresholds of a plethora of industries to mine out intended and unintended consequences of current and emerging technologies. She guided our foci as we trekked through time to learn from the past, and to conjecture the future. Our publication has also become more applicable and accessible to a general audience. These rich efforts resulted in meaningful debate and deeper understanding of the complex interactions between technology and society across the globe.

As the torch is passed, our new “keeper of the threshold” leads us onward. Under his gifted leadership, we will continue to post rich scholarly propositions, and derive great benefit from healthy disputation.