The Advocacy Project: A Multi-modal Composition
39C: Technology and the Future
Like the Context Project, The Advocacy Project is a multi-modal composition that uses various rhetorical positions and different types of evidence to make arguments. This one, however, is a bit different from the first in that over the course of these next few weeks, as you research and evaluate various sources, and as you draft, craft and organize your thoughts and evidence, you will at some point have to make a decision to become an advocate for a particular set of regulations, approaches, and/or innovations to your technology that: 1) resolves the problems and negative effects created by your technology; 2) mitigates the risks/dangers posed by your technology in the future; or, 3) increases access to the positive effects of this technology to more people who otherwise might not benefit from it. In other words, your arguments for how to best optimize your technology while best reducing the downside risks and effects will, after weeks and weeks of diligent engagement, become a richly-textured thesis statement.
What should be done? Why? and How should we do it?
When we think of the act of advocating and when we imagine a person or an organization who is an advocate for a cause, we think of strongly held opinions delivered with intensity from a rhetorical position that appears unshakable, deeply confident in the ethical rightness of its arguments and the accuracy of its knowledge. If we look at advocacy in such ways, we can understand why it takes time to become a convincing advocate, and that advocacy, even when it is delivered in the form of a thesis-driven composition, is a form of argumentation that can be quite different from the balanced arguments we often think of as academic writing even if it is as rigorous its presentation of evidence.
This is not to say that academic writers are never advocates. Sometimes they are, and over the course of this project, you will become such an advocate—one who uses academic research and methods to deliver persuasive arguments convincingly to the public. Academic writers in many disciplines often write with the purpose of advocating for solutions to political/social/cultural/environmental problems. When they do so, they are expected to consider and present positions that run against their own views in various ways – call them counter arguments – in order to meet the expectations of their academic audience. They must demonstrate their mastery of established arguments and knowledge in areas of discourse and recognize the legitimacy of other perspectives, even if the author seeks ultimately to prove them wrong.
In the realm of public advocacy, arguments and persuasion can look, feel, and sound quite different. Public advocates deliver strong and impassioned arguments by undermining counter arguments. They do so by choice and with knowledge about the various perspectives and pieces of evidence that may potentially undermine their case. When putting forth arguments in academic or public settings, the most convincing advocates do not simply put forward solutions without first comprehending the informed debates in which these solutions are situated. Rather, successful advocates draw from a deep well of knowledge when carefully selecting the evidence and rhetorical appeals that will make their case about how to address the profound social problems they put before their audiences.
Establishing Your Core Problem:
Economic costs–eg What will happen to workers displaced by your technology?
Social/health costs–eg What does this technology do to people’s mental health and/or sense of purpose? How has this technology distorted interpersonal relationships, communities, family formation, etc?
Use risks–eg How might this technology be used for malicious purposes or by bad actors to create severe harms and/or consolidate their power?
Alignment Problem–eg How might this technology begin to take on a life of its own, so to speak, and, especially in the case of any kind of autonomous or AI driven technology, do things that are not aligned with human flourishing?
Failure mode–eg What are the consequences of this technology not working properly, and/or failing in some way?
Moral/ethical–eg How do we further develop/implement/administer this technology to maximally optimize human flourishing?
Social equity–eg how do we ensure this technology is accessible to as many people as possible, and not just the few wealthy people who can afford it? How do we ensure this technology is not misused to disadvantage certain groups over others?
Engineering/scientific–eg What are the major obstacles to achieving this technological advancement?
Political/economic–eg What institutional constraints are there on developing this tech, either because of political resistance, or the cost of developing this tech?
Having reviewed and considered your topic, identify what you think is the core problem, or set of problems, related to your topic. Present this problem as a question that needs to be answered. It may take the following form: “How do we [fill in the blank].” For example,
“How do we [solve the alignment problem for artificial intelligence, both as an ethical and engineering problem]?”
“How do we [regulate and develop gene-modification technology to resolve the various ethical disputes surrounding this technology]?”
“How do we [engineer nuclear power as an alternative energy source that limits the risk of nuclear disaster]?”
Why this is the most important problem related to your technology. This summary will describe a specific set of negative effects caused by this problem, or potentially caused by this problem, identify a specific set of causes for this problem, incurred by a specific set of people (who is harmed?), in a specific historical, cultural, economic, and moral context. Some questions you might answer:
What is the scope and severity of the problem? Provide data and expert analysis.
Who is most harmed, and/or most vulnerable?
What is the root cause of this problem, and/or what might cause this problem?
What similar kinds of problems have existed in the past and/or in other contexts and how does that inform your understanding of this problem?
How do various experts characterize this problem? (Here you ought to provide quotes from expert sources.)
What are the consequences, or potential consequences, of not addressing this problem?
Why is this problem so difficult to resolve? What forces, intentionally or not, are getting in the way of resolving this problem?
Sources & Citations:
You should use 10 sources beyond the sources you’ve been assigned in class or used in your first essay. Use the MLA system for citing your sources.
Graded Submission: 2750 words
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