Christian Fleck and Olessia Kirtchik participated in XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology in Toronto
IGITI Chief Research Fellow Christian Fleck and Leading Research Fellow Olessia Kirtchik took part in XIX International Sociological Association World Congress of Sociology – Power, Violence and Justice: Reflections, Responses and Responsibilities. See more.
Christian Fleck presented a paper titled "How to Remain a Detached Sociologist While on the Payroll of the Perpetrator of the “Tobacco Holocaust”? Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Philipp Morris Research and Development". Olessia Kirtchik delivered a paper "From the United States to the Soviet Union and Back Again: A Transatlantic Story of Machine Learning".
How to Remain a Detached Sociologist While on the Payroll of the Perpetrator of the “Tobacco Holocaust”? Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Philipp Morris Research and Development
There is widespread consensus with regard to two propositions: First, the (US American) tobacco industry perpetrated something which some scholars call, without blushing, “Tobacco Holocaust” (Rabinoff 2006) or “Golden Holocaust” (Proctor 2011). Secondly, those who commission a (social) scientist usually exert enough leverage on their contractors to get the messages they are interested in. The appropriatenss of comparisons like “the Tobacco Holocaust is at least 25 times the high estimates of the Jewish Holocaust” (http://www.rense.com/general65/UwSSL.HTM) legitimated by the first mentioned consensus might be questioned. The second consensus is a truism if we adopt the worldview of popular media, political discourses but also some serious sociological writings. The debate between Martin Bulmer and Donald Fisher in the 1980s about the role of the Rockefeller Foundation for the development of empirical social research, Stephen Turner’s criticism (1998) of Jennifer Platt’s 1996 book are indications from sociology, and the saying “the one who pays the piper calls the tune”, nicely explained in The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (2002, p. 55) as “The person who hires another determines the services to be rendered”, should suffice here as evidence.
Beyond any doubts, a leading sociologist of the 20th century, Paul F. Lazarsfeld, got a check about $ 45,000 back in 1972 (the equivalent of $ 262,273 in 2016) from “Philipp Morris Research and Development”, kind of a cover for one of the big American tobacco producers.
The proposed paper will present archival evidence about the negotiations between Philipp Morris and Lazarsfeld in the run-up of the contract, give a detailed report about the research done for these dollars and conclude with a somewhat non-conformist rejection to the second consensus mentioned above: In a nutshell, Lazarsfeld did not sell his conscience.
From the United States to the Soviet Union and Back Again: A Transatlantic Story of Machine Learning
Machine learning algorithms based on so-called "neural networks" are often considered today as the future of the AI (artificial intelligence) and a solution to many major problems faced by the humanity. Highly optimistic and futuristic narratives produced by (and around) this field generally obscure its mid-20th century origins, in particular its deep connection to cybernetics. The concept of a “neural network” itself was introduced by Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts back in the 1940s. A subsequent career of this idea and of its implementations has been quite turbulent, from high expectations to complete oblivion, and numerous rediscoveries. Although its history begins to be known today, these narratives generally omit the European perspective, and especially the Soviet experiences in this field. This paper intends to bring into focus a transatlantic travel of the idea of Perceptron developed by Frank Rosenblatt in 1958. This machine designed to learn pattern recognition became one the first implementations of the artificial neural network. The model of Perceptron was adopted and creatively appropriated by Soviet scientists early after its first appearance in the United States. I will consider the case of the Soviet Institute of Management Problems (IPU), whose researchers were among the pioneers of algorithms for automatic image recognition in the 1960s (motivated by demand from the military). Inspired by the Perceptron model, members of the IPU led by Mark Aizerman developed a geometric learning method (a so-called method of potential functions) quickly recognized and adopted by American and European scientists and engineers. This work was a part of a larger theoretical research program in the domain of image recognition and self-learning machines ("unsupervised learning"). This episode is not only an important chapter in the history of artificial intelligence, but also an exciting case of the effective intellectual and technological transfer through the Iron Curtain.