4. Angelo Falcon, 2007.
Numero Uno—“1. The Imitation GameI propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?’ This should begin with definitions of the meaning of the terms ‘machine’ and ‘think.’ The definitions might be framed so as to reflect so far as possible the normal use of the words, but this attitude is dangerous. If the meaning of the words ‘machine’ and ‘think’ are to be found by examining how they are commonly used it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the meaning and the answer to the question, ‘Can machines think?’ is to be sought in a statistical survey such as a Gallup poll. But this is absurd. Instead of attempting such a definition I shall replace the question by another, which is closely related to it and is expressed in relatively unambiguous words.
The new form of the problem can be described in terms of a game which we call the ‘imitation game.’ It is played with three people, a man (A), a woman (B), and an interrogator (C) who may be of either sex. The interrogator stays in a room apart front the other two. The object of the game for the interrogator is to determine which of the other two is the man and which is the woman. He knows them by labels X and Y, and at the end of the game he says either ‘X is A and Y is B’ or ‘X is B and Y is A.’ The interrogator is allowed to put questions to A and B thus:
C: Will X please tell me the length of his or her hair?
Now suppose X is actually A, then A must answer. It is A’s object in the game to try and cause C to make the wrong identification. His answer might therefore be:
‘My hair is shingled, and the longest strands are about nine inches long.’
In order that tones of voice may not help the interrogator the answers should be written, or better still, typewritten. The ideal arrangement is to have a teleprinter communicating between the two rooms. Alternatively the question and answers can be repeated by an intermediary. The object of the game for the third player (B) is to help the interrogator. The best strategy for her is probably to give truthful answers. She can add such things as ‘I am the woman, don’t listen to him!’ to her answers, but it will avail nothing as the man can make similar remarks.
We now ask the question, ‘What will happen when a machine takes the part of A in this game?’ Will the interrogator decide wrongly as often when the game is played like this as he does when the game is played between a man and a woman? These questions replace our original, ‘Can machines think?’
2. Critique of the New Problem
As well as asking, “What is the answer to this new form of the question,” one may ask, “Is this new question a worthy one to investigate?” This latter question we investigate without further ado, thereby cutting short an infinite regress.
The new problem has the advantage of drawing a fairly sharp line between the physical and the intellectual capacities of a man. No engineer or chemist claims to be able to produce a material which is indistinguishable from the human skin. It is possible that at some time this might be done, but even supposing this invention available we should feel there was little point in trying to make a “thinking machine” more human by dressing it up in such artificial flesh. The form in which we have set the problem reflects this fact in the condition which prevents the interrogator from seeing or touching the other competitors, or hearing -their voices. Some other advantages of the proposed criterion may be shown up by specimen questions and answers. Thus:
Q: Please write me a sonnet on the subject of the Forth Bridge.
A : Count me out on this one. I never could write poetry.
Q: Add 34957 to 70764.
A: (Pause about 30 seconds and then give as answer) 105621.
Q: Do you play chess?
Q: I have K at my K1, and no other pieces. You have only K at K6 and R at R1. It is your move. What do you play?
A: (After a pause of 15 seconds) R-R8 mate.
The question and answer method seems to be suitable for introducing almost any one of the fields of human endeavour that we wish to include. We do not wish to penalise the machine for its inability to shine in beauty competitions, nor to penalise a man for losing in a race against an aeroplane. The conditions of our game make these disabilities irrelevant. The “witnesses” can brag, if they consider it advisable, as much as they please about their charms, strength or heroism, but the interrogator cannot demand practical demonstrations.
The game may perhaps be criticised on the ground that the odds are weighted too heavily against the machine. If the man were to try and pretend to be the machine he would clearly make a very poor showing. He would be given away at once by slowness and inaccuracy in arithmetic. May not machines carry out something which ought to be described as thinking but which is very different from what a man does? This objection is a very strong one, but at least we can say that if, nevertheless, a machine can be constructed to play the imitation game satisfactorily, we need not be troubled by this objection.
It might be urged that when playing the “imitation game” the best strategy for the machine may possibly be something other than imitation of the behaviour of a man. This may be, but I think it is unlikely that there is any great effect of this kind. In any case there is no intention to investigate here the theory of the game, and it will be assumed that the best strategy is to try to provide answers that would naturally be given by a man.
3. The Machines Concerned in the Game
The question which we put in 1 will not be quite definite until we have specified what we mean by the word “machine.” It is natural that we should wish to permit every kind of engineering technique to be used in our machines. We also wish to allow the possibility than an engineer or team of engineers may construct a machine which works, but whose manner of operation cannot be satisfactorily described by its constructors because they have applied a method which is largely experimental. Finally, we wish to exclude from the machines men born in the usual manner. It is difficult to frame the definitions so as to satisfy these three conditions. One might for instance insist that the team of engineers should be all of one sex, but this would not really be satisfactory, for it is probably possible to rear a complete individual from a single cell of the skin (say) of a man. To do so would be a feat of biological technique deserving of the very highest praise, but we would not be inclined to regard it as a case of “constructing a thinking machine.” This prompts us to abandon the requirement that every kind of technique should be permitted. We are the more ready to do so in view of the fact that the present interest in “thinking machines” has been aroused by a particular kind of machine, usually called an “electronic computer” or “digital computer.” Following this suggestion we only permit digital computers to take part in our game.
This restriction appears at first sight to be a very drastic one. I shall attempt to show that it is not so in reality. To do this necessitates a short account of the nature and properties of these computers.
It may also be said that this identification of machines with digital computers, like our criterion for “thinking,” will only be unsatisfactory if (contrary to my belief), it turns out that digital computers are unable to give a good showing in the game.
There are already a number of digital computers in working order, and it may be asked, “Why not try the experiment straight away? It would be easy to satisfy the conditions of the game. A number of interrogators could be used, and statistics compiled to show how often the right identification was given.” The short answer is that we are not asking whether all digital computers would do well in the game nor whether the computers at present available would do well, but whether there are imaginable computers which would do well. But this is only the short answer. We shall see this question in a different light later.
4. Digital Computers
The idea behind digital computers may be explained by saying that these machines are intended to carry out any operations which could be done by a human computer. The human computer is supposed to be following fixed rules; he has no authority to deviate from them in any detail. We may suppose that these rules are supplied in a book, which is altered whenever he is put on to a new job. He has also an unlimited supply of paper on which he does his calculations. He may also do his multiplications and additions on a “desk machine,” but this is not important.
If we use the above explanation as a definition we shall be in danger of circularity of argument. We avoid this by giving an outline. of the means by which the desired effect is achieved. A digital computer can usually be regarded as consisting of three parts:
(ii) Executive unit.
The store is a store of information, and corresponds to the human computer’s paper, whether this is the paper on which he does his calculations or that on which his book of rules is printed. In so far as the human computer does calculations in his bead a part of the store will correspond to his memory.
The executive unit is the part which carries out the various individual operations involved in a calculation. What these individual operations are will vary from machine to machine. Usually fairly lengthy operations can be done such as “Multiply 3540675445 by 7076345687” but in some machines only very simple ones such as “Write down 0” are possible.
We have mentioned that the “book of rules” supplied to the computer is replaced in the machine by a part of the store. It is then called the “table of instructions.” It is the duty of the control to see that these instructions are obeyed correctly and in the right order. The control is so constructed that this necessarily happens.
The information in the store is usually broken up into packets of moderately small size. In one machine, for instance, a packet might consist of ten decimal digits. Numbers are assigned to the parts of the store in which the various packets of information are stored, in some systematic manner. A typical instruction might say-
“Add the number stored in position 6809 to that in 4302 and put the result back into the latter storage position.”
Needless to say it would not occur in the machine expressed in English. It would more likely be coded in a form such as 6809430217. Here 17 says which of various possible operations is to be performed on the two numbers. In this case the)e operation is that described above, viz., “Add the number. . . .” It will be noticed that the instruction takes up 10 digits and so forms one packet of information, very conveniently. The control will normally take the instructions to be obeyed in the order of the positions in which they are stored, but occasionally an instruction such as
“Now obey the instruction stored in position 5606, and continue from there”
may be encountered, or again
“If position 4505 contains 0 obey next the instruction stored in 6707, otherwise continue straight on.”
Instructions of these latter types are very important because they make it possible for a sequence of operations to be replaced over and over again until some condition is fulfilled, but in doing so to obey, not fresh instructions on each repetition, but the same ones over and over again. To take a domestic analogy. Suppose Mother wants Tommy to call at the cobbler’s every morning on his way to school to see if her shoes are done, she can ask him afresh every morning. Alternatively she can stick up a notice once and for all in the hall which he will see when he leaves for school and which tells him to call for the shoes, and also to destroy the notice when he comes back if he has the shoes with him.
The reader must accept it as a fact that digital computers can be constructed, and indeed have been constructed, according to the principles we have described, and that they can in fact mimic the actions of a human computer very closely.
The book of rules which we have described our human computer as using is of course a convenient fiction. Actual human computers really remember what they have got to do. If one wants to make a machine mimic the behaviour of the human computer in some complex operation one has to ask him how it is done, and then translate the answer into the form of an instruction table. Constructing instruction tables is usually described as “programming.” To “programme a machine to carry out the operation A” means to put the appropriate instruction table into the machine so that it will do A.
An interesting variant on the idea of a digital computer is a “digital computer with a random element.” These have instructions involving the throwing of a die or some equivalent electronic process; one such instruction might for instance be, “Throw the die and put the-resulting number into store 1000.” Sometimes such a machine is described as having free will (though I would not use this phrase myself), It is not normally possible to determine from observing a machine whether it has a random element, for a similar effect can be produced by such devices as making the choices depend on the digits of the decimal for .
Most actual digital computers have only a finite store. There is no theoretical difficulty in the idea of a computer with an unlimited store. Of course only a finite part can have been used at any one time. Likewise only a finite amount can have been constructed, but we can imagine more and more being added as required. Such computers have special theoretical interest and will be called infinitive capacity computers.
The idea of a digital computer is an old one. Charles Babbage, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge from 1828 to 1839, planned such a machine, called the Analytical Engine, but it was never completed. Although Babbage had all the essential ideas, his machine was not at that time such a very attractive prospect. The speed which would have been available would be definitely faster than a human computer but something like I 00 times slower than the Manchester machine, itself one of the slower of the modern machines, The storage was to be purely mechanical, using wheels and cards.
The fact that Babbage’s Analytical Engine was to be entirely mechanical will help us to rid ourselves of a superstition. Importance is often attached to the fact that modern digital computers are electrical, and that the nervous system also is electrical. Since Babbage’s machine was not electrical, and since all digital computers are in a sense equivalent, we see that this use of electricity cannot be of theoretical importance. Of course electricity usually comes in where fast signalling is concerned, so that it is not surprising that we find it in both these connections. In the nervous system chemical phenomena are at least as important as electrical. In certain computers the storage system is mainly acoustic. The feature of using electricity is thus seen to be only a very superficial similarity. If we wish to find such similarities we should took rather for mathematical analogies of function.
5. Universality of Digital Computers
The digital computers considered in the last section may be classified amongst the “discrete-state machines.” These are the machines which move by sudden jumps or clicks from one quite definite state to another. These states are sufficiently different for the possibility of confusion between them to be ignored. Strictly speaking there, are no such machines. Everything really moves continuously. But there are many kinds of machine which can profitably be thought of as being discrete-state machines. For instance in considering the switches for a lighting system it is a convenient fiction that each switch must be definitely on or definitely off. There must be intermediate positions, but for most purposes we can forget about them. As an example of a discrete-state machine we might consider a wheel which clicks round through 120 once a second, but may be stopped by a ]ever which can be operated from outside; in addition a lamp is to light in one of the positions of the wheel. This machine could be described abstractly as follows. The internal state of the machine (which is described by the position of the wheel) may be q1, q2 or q3. There is an input signal i0. or i1 (position of ]ever). The internal state at any moment is determined by the last state and input signal according to the table
The output signals, the only externally visible indication of the internal state (the light) are described by the table
State q1 q2 q3
output o0 o0 o1
This example is typical of discrete-state machines. They can be described by such tables provided they have only a finite number of possible states.
It will seem that given the initial state of the machine and the input signals it is always possible to predict all future states, This is reminiscent of Laplace’s view that from the complete state of the universe at one moment of time, as described by the positions and velocities of all particles, it should be possible to predict all future states. The prediction which we are considering is, however, rather nearer to practicability than that considered by Laplace. The system of the “universe as a whole” is such that quite small errors in the initial conditions can have an overwhelming effect at a later time. The displacement of a single electron by a billionth of a centimetre at one moment might make the difference between a man being killed by an avalanche a year later, or escaping. It is an essential property of the mechanical systems which we have called “discrete-state machines” that this phenomenon does not occur. Even when we consider the actual physical machines instead of the idealised machines, reasonably accurate knowledge of the state at one moment yields reasonably accurate knowledge any number of steps later.
As we have mentioned, digital computers fall within the class of discrete-state machines. But the number of states of which such a machine is capable is usually enormously large. For instance, the number for the machine now working at Manchester is about 2 165,000, i.e., about 10 50,000. Compare this with our example of the clicking wheel described above, which had three states. It is not difficult to see why the number of states should be so immense. The computer includes a store corresponding to the paper used by a human computer. It must be possible to write into the store any one of the combinations of symbols which might have been written on the paper. For simplicity suppose that only digits from 0 to 9 are used as symbols. Variations in handwriting are ignored. Suppose the computer is allowed 100 sheets of paper each containing 50 lines each with room for 30 digits. Then the number of states is 10 100x50x30 i.e., 10 150,000 . This is about the number of states of three Manchester machines put together. The logarithm to the base two of the number of states is usually called the “storage capacity” of the machine. Thus the Manchester machine has a storage capacity of about 165,000 and the wheel machine of our example about 1.6. If two machines are put together their capacities must be added to obtain the capacity of the resultant machine. This leads to the possibility of statements such as “The Manchester machine contains 64 magnetic tracks each with a capacity of 2560, eight electronic tubes with a capacity of 1280. Miscellaneous storage amounts to about 300 making a total of 174,380.”
Given the table corresponding to a discrete-state machine it is possible to predict what it will do. There is no reason why this calculation should not be carried out by means of a digital computer. Provided it could be carried out sufficiently quickly the digital computer could mimic the behavior of any discrete-state machine. The imitation game could then be played with the machine in question (as B) and the mimicking digital computer (as A) and the interrogator would be unable to distinguish them. Of course the digital computer must have an adequate storage capacity as well as working sufficiently fast. Moreover, it must be programmed afresh for each new machine which it is desired to mimic.
This special property of digital computers, that they can mimic any discrete-state machine, is described by saying that they are universal machines. The existence of machines with this property has the important consequence that, considerations of speed apart, it is unnecessary to design various new machines to do various computing processes. They can all be done with one digital computer, suitably programmed for each case. It ‘ill be seen that as a consequence of this all digital computers are in a sense equivalent.
We may now consider again the point raised at the end of §3. It was suggested tentatively that the question, “Can machines think?” should be replaced by “Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?” If we wish we can make this superficially more general and ask “Are there discrete-state machines which would do well?” But in view of the universality property we see that either of these questions is equivalent to this, “Let us fix our attention on one particular digital computer C. Is it true that by modifying this computer to have an adequate storage, suitably increasing its speed of action, and providing it with an appropriate programme, C can be made to play satisfactorily the part of A in the imitation game, the part of B being taken by a man?”
6. Contrary Views on the Main Question
We may now consider the ground to have been cleared and we are ready to proceed to the debate on our question, “Can machines think?” and the variant of it quoted at the end of the last section. We cannot altogether abandon the original form of the problem, for opinions will differ as to the appropriateness of the substitution and we must at least listen to what has to be said in this connexion.
It will simplify matters for the reader if I explain first my own beliefs in the matter. Consider first the more accurate form of the question. I believe that in about fifty years’ time it will be possible, to programme computers, with a storage capacity of about 109, to make them play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than 70 per cent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of questioning. The original question, “Can machines think?” I believe to be too meaningless to deserve discussion. Nevertheless I believe that at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted. I believe further that no useful purpose is served by concealing these beliefs. The popular view that scientists proceed inexorably from well-established fact to well-established fact, never being influenced by any improved conjecture, is quite mistaken. Provided it is made clear which are proved facts and which are conjectures, no harm can result. Conjectures are of great importance since they suggest useful lines of research.
I now proceed to consider opinions opposed to my own.
(1) The Theological Objection
Thinking is a function of man’s immortal soul. God has given an immortal soul to every man and woman, but not to any other animal or to machines. Hence no animal or machine can think.
I am unable to accept any part of this, but will attempt to reply in theological terms. I should find the argument more convincing if animals were classed with men, for there is a greater difference, to my mind, between the typical animate and the inanimate than there is between man and the other animals. The arbitrary character of the orthodox view becomes clearer if we consider how it might appear to a member of some other religious community. How do Christians regard the Moslem view that women have no souls? But let us leave this point aside and return to the main argument. It appears to me that the argument quoted above implies a serious restriction of the omnipotence of the Almighty. It is admitted that there are certain things that He cannot do such as making one equal to two, but should we not believe that He has freedom to confer a soul on an elephant if He sees fit? We might expect that He would only exercise this power in conjunction with a mutation which provided the elephant with an appropriately improved brain to minister to the needs of this sort[. An argument of exactly similar form may be made for the case of machines. It may seem different because it is more difficult to “swallow.” But this really only means that we think it would be less likely that He would consider the circumstances suitable for conferring a soul. The circumstances in question are discussed in the rest of this paper. In attempting to construct such machines we should not be irreverently usurping His power of creating souls, any more than we are in the procreation of children: rather we are, in either case, instruments of His will providing .mansions for the souls that He creates.
However, this is mere speculation. I am not very impressed with theological arguments whatever they may be used to support. Such arguments have often been found unsatisfactory in the past. In the time of Galileo it was argued that the texts, “And the sun stood still . . . and hasted not to go down about a whole day” (Joshua x. 13) and “He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not move at any time” (Psalm cv. 5) were an adequate refutation of the Copernican theory. With our present knowledge such an argument appears futile. When that knowledge was not available it made a quite different impression.
(2) The “Heads in the Sand” Objection
The consequences of machines thinking would be too dreadful. Let us hope and believe that they cannot do so.”
This argument is seldom expressed quite so openly as in the form above. But it affects most of us who think about it at all. We like to believe that Man is in some subtle way superior to the rest of creation. It is best if he can be shown to be necessarily superior, for then there is no danger of him losing his commanding position. The popularity of the theological argument is clearly connected with this feeling. It is likely to be quite strong in intellectual people, since they value the power of thinking more highly than others, and are more inclined to base their belief in the superiority of Man on this power.
I do not think that this argument is sufficiently substantial to require refutation. Consolation would be more appropriate: perhaps this should be sought in the transmigration of souls.
(3) The Mathematical Objection
There are a number of results of mathematical logic which can be used to show that there are limitations to the powers of discrete-state machines. The best known of these results is known as Godel’s theorem ( 1931 ) and shows that in any sufficiently powerful logical system statements can be formulated which can neither be proved nor disproved within the system, unless possibly the system itself is inconsistent. There are other, in some respects similar, results due to Church (1936), Kleene (1935), Rosser, and Turing (1937). The latter result is the most convenient to consider, since it refers directly to machines, whereas the others can only be used in a comparatively indirect argument: for instance if Godel’s theorem is to be used we need in addition to have some means of describing logical systems in terms of machines, and machines in terms of logical systems. The result in question refers to a type of machine which is essentially a digital computer with an infinite capacity. It states that there are certain things that such a machine cannot do. If it is rigged up to give answers to questions as in the imitation game, there will be some questions to which it will either give a wrong answer, or fail to give an answer at all however much time is allowed for a reply. There may, of course, be many such questions, and questions which cannot be answered by one machine may be satisfactorily answered by another. We are of course supposing for the present that the questions are of the kind to which an answer “Yes” or “No” is appropriate, rather than questions such as “What do you think of Picasso?” The questions that we know the machines must fail on are of this type, “Consider the machine specified as follows. . . . Will this machine ever answer ‘Yes’ to any question?” The dots are to be replaced by a description of some machine in a standard form, which could be something like that used in §5. When the machine described bears a certain comparatively simple relation to the machine which is under interrogation, it can be shown that the answer is either wrong or not forthcoming. This is the mathematical result: it is argued that it proves a disability of machines to which the human intellect is not subject.
The short answer to this argument is that although it is established that there are limitations to the Powers If any particular machine, it has only been stated, without any sort of proof, that no such limitations apply to the human intellect. But I do not think this view can be dismissed quite so lightly. Whenever one of these machines is asked the appropriate critical question, and gives a definite answer, we know that this answer must be wrong, and this gives us a certain feeling of superiority. Is this feeling illusory? It is no doubt quite genuine, but I do not think too much importance should be attached to it. We too often give wrong answers to questions ourselves to be justified in being very pleased at such evidence of fallibility on the part of the machines. Further, our superiority can only be felt on such an occasion in relation to the one machine over which we have scored our petty triumph. There would be no question of triumphing simultaneously over all machines. In short, then, there might be men cleverer than any given machine, but then again there might be other machines cleverer again, and so on.
Those who hold to the mathematical argument would, I think, mostly he willing to accept the imitation game as a basis for discussion, Those who believe in the two previous objections would probably not be interested in any criteria.
(4) The Argument from Consciousness
This argument is very, well expressed in Professor Jefferson’s Lister Oration for 1949, from which I quote. “Not until a machine can write a sonnet or compose a concerto because of thoughts and emotions felt, and not by the chance fall of symbols, could we agree that machine equals brain-that is, not only write it but know that it had written it. No mechanism could feel (and not merely artificially signal, an easy contrivance) pleasure at its successes, grief when its valves fuse, be warmed by flattery, be made miserable by its mistakes, be charmed by sex, be angry or depressed when it cannot get what it wants.”
This argument appears to be a denial of the validity of our test. According to the most extreme form of this view the only way by which one could be sure that machine thinks is to be the machine and to feel oneself thinking. One could then describe these feelings to the world, but of course no one would be justified in taking any notice. Likewise according to this view the only way to know that a man thinks is to be that particular man. It is in fact the solipsist point of view. It may be the most logical view to hold but it makes communication of ideas difficult. A is liable to believe “A thinks but B does not” whilst B believes “B thinks but A does not.” instead of arguing continually over this point it is usual to have the polite convention that everyone thinks.
I am sure that Professor Jefferson does not wish to adopt the extreme and solipsist point of view. Probably he would be quite willing to accept the imitation game as a test. The game (with the player B omitted) is frequently used in practice under the name of viva voce to discover whether some one really understands something or has “learnt it parrot fashion.” Let us listen in to a part of such a viva voce:
Interrogator: In the first line of your sonnet which reads “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” would not “a spring day” do as well or better?
Witness: It wouldn’t scan.
Interrogator: How about “a winter’s day,” That would scan all right.
Witness: Yes, but nobody wants to be compared to a winter’s day.
Interrogator: Would you say Mr. Pickwick reminded you of Christmas?
Witness: In a way.
Interrogator: Yet Christmas is a winter’s day, and I do not think Mr. Pickwick would mind the comparison.
Witness: I don’t think you’re serious. By a winter’s day one means a typical winter’s day, rather than a special one like Christmas.
And so on, What would Professor Jefferson say if the sonnet-writing machine was able to answer like this in the viva voce? I do not know whether he would regard the machine as “merely artificially signalling” these answers, but if the answers were as satisfactory and sustained as in the above passage I do not think he would describe it as “an easy contrivance.” This phrase is, I think, intended to cover such devices as the inclusion in the machine of a record of someone reading a sonnet, with appropriate switching to turn it on from time to time.
In short then, I think that most of those who support the argument from consciousness could be persuaded to abandon it rather than be forced into the solipsist position. They will then probably be willing to accept our test.
I do not wish to give the impression that I think there is no mystery about consciousness. There is, for instance, something of a paradox connected with any attempt to localise it. But I do not think these mysteries necessarily need to be solved before we can answer the question with which we are concerned in this paper.
(5) Arguments from Various Disabilities
These arguments take the form, “I grant you that you can make machines do all the things you have mentioned but you will never be able to make one to do X.” Numerous features X are suggested in this connexion I offer a selection:
Be kind, resourceful, beautiful, friendly, have initiative, have a sense of humour, tell right from wrong, make mistakes, fall in love, enjoy strawberries and cream, make some one fall in love with it, learn from experience, use words properly, be the subject of its own thought, have as much diversity of behaviour as a man, do something really new.
No support is usually offered for these statements. I believe they are mostly founded on the principle of scientific induction. A man has seen thousands of machines in his lifetime. From what he sees of them he draws a number of general conclusions. They are ugly, each is designed for a very limited purpose, when required for a minutely different purpose they are useless, the variety of behaviour of any one of them is very small, etc., etc. Naturally he concludes that these are necessary properties of machines in general. Many of these limitations are associated with the very small storage capacity of most machines. (I am assuming that the idea of storage capacity is extended in some way to cover machines other than discrete-state machines. The exact definition does not matter as no mathematical accuracy is claimed in the present discussion,) A few years ago, when very little had been heard of digital computers, it was possible to elicit much incredulity concerning them, if one mentioned their properties without describing their construction. That was presumably due to a similar application of the principle of scientific induction. These applications of the principle are of course largely unconscious. When a burnt child fears the fire and shows that he fears it by avoiding it, f should say that he was applying scientific induction. (I could of course also describe his behaviour in many other ways.) The works and customs of mankind do not seem to be very suitable material to which to apply scientific induction. A very large part of space-time must be investigated, if reliable results are to be obtained. Otherwise we may (as most English ‘Children do) decide that everybody speaks English, and that it is silly to learn French.
There are, however, special remarks to be made about many of the disabilities that have been mentioned. The inability to enjoy strawberries and cream may have struck the reader as frivolous. Possibly a machine might be made to enjoy this delicious dish, but any attempt to make one do so would be idiotic. What is important about this disability is that it contributes to some of the other disabilities, e.g., to the difficulty of the same kind of friendliness occurring between man and machine as between white man and white man, or between black man and black man.
The claim that “machines cannot make mistakes” seems a curious one. One is tempted to retort, “Are they any the worse for that?” But let us adopt a more sympathetic attitude, and try to see what is really meant. I think this criticism can be explained in terms of the imitation game. It is claimed that the interrogator could distinguish the machine from the man simply by setting them a number of problems in arithmetic. The machine would be unmasked because of its deadly accuracy. The reply to this is simple. The machine (programmed for playing the game) would not attempt to give the right answers to the arithmetic problems. It would deliberately introduce mistakes in a manner calculated to confuse the interrogator. A mechanical fault would probably show itself through an unsuitable decision as to what sort of a mistake to make in the arithmetic. Even this interpretation of the criticism is not sufficiently sympathetic. But we cannot afford the space to go into it much further. It seems to me that this criticism depends on a confusion between two kinds of mistake, We may call them “errors of functioning” and “errors of conclusion.” Errors of functioning are due to some mechanical or electrical fault which causes the machine to behave otherwise than it was designed to do. In philosophical discussions one likes to ignore the possibility of such errors; one is therefore discussing “abstract machines.” These abstract machines are mathematical fictions rather than physical objects. By definition they are incapable of errors of functioning. In this sense we can truly say that “machines can never make mistakes.” Errors of conclusion can only arise when some meaning is attached to the output signals from the machine. The machine might, for instance, type out mathematical equations, or sentences in English. When a false proposition is typed we say that the machine has committed an error of conclusion. There is clearly no reason at all for saying that a machine cannot make this kind of mistake. It might do nothing but type out repeatedly “O = I.” To take a less perverse example, it might have some method for drawing conclusions by scientific induction. We must expect such a method to lead occasionally to erroneous results.
The claim that a machine cannot be the subject of its own thought can of course only be answered if it can be shown that the machine has some thought with some subject matter. Nevertheless, “the subject matter of a machine’s operations” does seem to mean something, at least to the people who deal with it. If, for instance, the machine was trying to find a solution of the equation x2 – 40x – 11 = 0 one would be tempted to describe this equation as part of the machine’s subject matter at that moment. In this sort of sense a machine undoubtedly can be its own subject matter. It may be used to help in making up its own programmes, or to predict the effect of alterations in its own structure. By observing the results of its own behaviour it can modify its own programmes so as to achieve some purpose more effectively. These are possibilities of the near future, rather than Utopian dreams.
The criticism that a machine cannot have much diversity of behaviour is just a way of saying that it cannot have much storage capacity. Until fairly recently a storage capacity of even a thousand digits was very rare.
The criticisms that we are considering here are often disguised forms of the argument from consciousness, Usually if one maintains that a machine can do one of these things, and describes the kind of method that the machine could use, one will not make much of an impression. It is thought that tile method (whatever it may be, for it must be mechanical) is really rather base. Compare the parentheses in Jefferson’s statement quoted on page 22.
(6) Lady Lovelace’s Objection
Our most detailed information of Babbage’s Analytical Engine comes from a memoir by Lady Lovelace ( 1842). In it she states, “The Analytical Engine has no pretensions to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform” (her italics). This statement is quoted by Hartree ( 1949) who adds: “This does not imply that it may not be possible to construct electronic equipment which will ‘think for itself,’ or in which, in biological terms, one could set up a conditioned reflex, which would serve as a basis for ‘learning.’ Whether this is possible in principle or not is a stimulating and exciting question, suggested by some of these recent developments But it did not seem that the machines constructed or projected at the time had this property.”
I am in thorough agreement with Hartree over this. It will be noticed that he does not assert that the machines in question had not got the property, but rather that the evidence available to Lady Lovelace did not encourage her to believe that they had it. It is quite possible that the machines in question had in a sense got this property. For suppose that some discrete-state machine has the property. The Analytical Engine was a universal digital computer, so that, if its storage capacity and speed were adequate, it could by suitable programming be made to mimic the machine in question. Probably this argument did not occur to the Countess or to Babbage. In any case there was no obligation on them to claim all that could be claimed.
This whole question will be considered again under the heading of learning machines.
A variant of Lady Lovelace’s objection states that a machine can “never do anything really new.” This may be parried for a moment with the saw, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Who can be certain that “original work” that he has done was not simply the growth of the seed planted in him by teaching, or the effect of following well-known general principles. A better variant of the objection says that a machine can never “take us by surprise.” This statement is a more direct challenge and can be met directly. Machines take me by surprise with great frequency. This is largely because I do not do sufficient calculation to decide what to expect them to do, or rather because, although I do a calculation, I do it in a hurried, slipshod fashion, taking risks. Perhaps I say to myself, “I suppose the Voltage here ought to he the same as there: anyway let’s assume it is.” Naturally I am often wrong, and the result is a surprise for me for by the time the experiment is done these assumptions have been forgotten. These admissions lay me open to lectures on the subject of my vicious ways, but do not throw any doubt on my credibility when I testify to the surprises I experience.
I do not expect this reply to silence my critic. He will probably say that h surprises are due to some creative mental act on my part, and reflect no credit on the machine. This leads us back to the argument from consciousness, and far from the idea of surprise. It is a line of argument we must consider closed, but it is perhaps worth remarking that the appreciation of something as surprising requires as much of a “creative mental act” whether the surprising event originates from a man, a book, a machine or anything else.
The view that machines cannot give rise to surprises is due, I believe, to a fallacy to which philosophers and mathematicians are particularly subject. This is the assumption that as soon as a fact is presented to a mind all consequences of that fact spring into the mind simultaneously with it. It is a very useful assumption under many circumstances, but one too easily forgets that it is false. A natural consequence of doing so is that one then assumes that there is no virtue in the mere working out of consequences from data and general principles.
(7) Argument from Continuity in the Nervous System
The nervous system is certainly not a discrete-state machine. A small error in the information about the size of a nervous impulse impinging on a neuron, may make a large difference to the size of the outgoing impulse. It may be argued that, this being so, one cannot expect to be able to mimic the behaviour of the nervous system with a discrete-state system.
It is true that a discrete-state machine must be different from a continuous machine. But if we adhere to the conditions of the imitation game, the interrogator will not be able to take any advantage of this difference. The situation can be made clearer if we consider sonic other simpler continuous machine. A differential analyser will do very well. (A differential analyser is a certain kind of machine not of the discrete-state type used for some kinds of calculation.) Some of these provide their answers in a typed form, and so are suitable for taking part in the game. It would not be possible for a digital computer to predict exactly what answers the differential analyser would give to a problem, but it would be quite capable of giving the right sort of answer. For instance, if asked to give the value of (actually about 3.1416) it would be reasonable to choose at random between the values 3.12, 3.13, 3.14, 3.15, 3.16 with the probabilities of 0.05, 0.15, 0.55, 0.19, 0.06 (say). Under these circumstances it would be very difficult for the interrogator to distinguish the differential analyser from the digital computer.
(8) The Argument from Informality of Behaviour
It is not possible to produce a set of rules purporting to describe what a man should do in every conceivable set of circumstances. One might for instance have a rule that one is to stop when one sees a red traffic light, and to go if one sees a green one, but what if by some fault both appear together? One may perhaps decide that it is safest to stop. But some further difficulty may well arise from this decision later. To attempt to provide rules of conduct to cover every eventuality, even those arising from traffic lights, appears to be impossible. With all this I agree.
From this it is argued that we cannot be machines. I shall try to reproduce the argument, but I fear I shall hardly do it justice. It seems to run something like this. “if each man had a definite set of rules of conduct by which he regulated his life he would be no better than a machine. But there are no such rules, so men cannot be machines.” The undistributed middle is glaring. I do not think the argument is ever put quite like this, but I believe this is the argument used nevertheless. There may however be a certain confusion between “rules of conduct” and “laws of behaviour” to cloud the issue. By “rules of conduct” I mean precepts such as “Stop if you see red lights,” on which one can act, and of which one can be conscious. By “laws of behaviour” I mean laws of nature as applied to a man’s body such as “if you pinch him he will squeak.” If we substitute “laws of behaviour which regulate his life” for “laws of conduct by which he regulates his life” in the argument quoted the undistributed middle is no longer insuperable. For we believe that it is not only true that being regulated by laws of behaviour implies being some sort of machine (though not necessarily a discrete-state machine), but that conversely being such a machine implies being regulated by such laws. However, we cannot so easily convince ourselves of the absence of complete laws of behaviour as of complete rules of conduct. The only way we know of for finding such laws is scientific observation, and we certainly know of no circumstances under which we could say, “We have searched enough. There are no such laws.”
We can demonstrate more forcibly that any such statement would be unjustified. For suppose we could be sure of finding such laws if they existed. Then given a discrete-state machine it should certainly be possible to discover by observation sufficient about it to predict its future behaviour, and this within a reasonable time, say a thousand years. But this does not seem to be the case. I have set up on the Manchester computer a small programme using only 1,000 units of storage, whereby the machine supplied with one sixteen-figure number replies with another within two seconds. I would defy anyone to learn from these replies sufficient about the programme to be able to predict any replies to untried values.
(9) The Argument from Extrasensory Perception
I assume that the reader is familiar with the idea of extrasensory perception, and the meaning of the four items of it, viz., telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis. These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our usual scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them! Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas so as to fit these new facts in. Once one has accepted them it does not seem a very big step to believe in ghosts and bogies. The idea that our bodies move simply according to the known laws of physics, together with some others not yet discovered but somewhat similar, would be one of the first to go.
This argument is to my mind quite a strong one. One can say in reply that many scientific theories seem to remain workable in practice, in spite of clashing with ESP; that in fact one can get along very nicely if one forgets about it. This is rather cold comfort, and one fears that thinking is just the kind of phenomenon where ESP may be especially relevant.
A more specific argument based on ESP might run as follows: “Let us play the imitation game, using as witnesses a man who is good as a telepathic receiver, and a digital computer. The interrogator can ask such questions as ‘What suit does the card in my right hand belong to?’ The man by telepathy or clairvoyance gives the right answer 130 times out of 400 cards. The machine can only guess at random, and perhaps gets 104 right, so the interrogator makes the right identification.” There is an interesting possibility which opens here. Suppose the digital computer contains a random number generator. Then it will be natural to use this to decide what answer to give. But then the random number generator will be subject to the psychokinetic powers of the interrogator. Perhaps this psychokinesis might cause the machine to guess right more often than would be expected on a probability calculation, so that the interrogator might still be unable to make the right identification. On the other hand, he might be able to guess right without any questioning, by clairvoyance. With ESP anything may happen.
If telepathy is admitted it will be necessary to tighten our test up. The situation could be regarded as analogous to that which would occur if the interrogator were talking to himself and one of the competitors was listening with his ear to the wall. To put the competitors into a “telepathy-proof room” would satisfy all requirements.
7. Learning Machines
The reader will have anticipated that I have no very convincing arguments of a positive nature to support my views. If I had I should not have taken such pains to point out the fallacies in contrary views. Such evidence as I have I shall now give.
Let us return for a moment to Lady Lovelace’s objection, which stated that the machine can only do what we tell it to do. One could say that a man can “inject” an idea into the machine, and that it will respond to a certain extent and then drop into quiescence, like a piano string struck by a hammer. Another simile would be an atomic pile of less than critical size: an injected idea is to correspond to a neutron entering the pile from without. Each such neutron will cause a certain disturbance which eventually dies away. If, however, the size of the pile is sufficiently increased, tire disturbance caused by such an incoming neutron will very likely go on and on increasing until the whole pile is destroyed. Is there a corresponding phenomenon for minds, and is there one for machines? There does seem to be one for the human mind. The majority of them seem to be “subcritical,” i.e., to correspond in this analogy to piles of subcritical size. An idea presented to such a mind will on average give rise to less than one idea in reply. A smallish proportion are supercritical. An idea presented to such a mind that may give rise to a whole “theory” consisting of secondary, tertiary and more remote ideas. Animals minds seem to be very definitely subcritical. Adhering to this analogy we ask, “Can a machine be made to be supercritical?”
The “skin-of-an-onion” analogy is also helpful. In considering the functions of the mind or the brain we find certain operations which we can explain in purely mechanical terms. This we say does not correspond to the real mind: it is a sort of skin which we must strip off if we are to find the real mind. But then in what remains we find a further skin to be stripped off, and so on. Proceeding in this way do we ever come to the “real” mind, or do we eventually come to the skin which has nothing in it? In the latter case the whole mind is mechanical. (It would not be a discrete-state machine however. We have discussed this.)
These last two paragraphs do not claim to be convincing arguments. They should rather be described as “recitations tending to produce belief.”
The only really satisfactory support that can be given for the view expressed at the beginning of §6, will be that provided by waiting for the end of the century and then doing the experiment described. But what can we say in the meantime? What steps should be taken now if the experiment is to be successful?
As I have explained, the problem is mainly one of programming. Advances in engineering will have to be made too, but it seems unlikely that these will not be adequate for the requirements. Estimates of the storage capacity of the brain vary from 1010 to 1015 binary digits. I incline to the lower values and believe that only a very small fraction is used for the higher types of thinking. Most of it is probably used for the retention of visual impressions, I should be surprised if more than 109was required for satisfactory playing of the imitation game, at any rate against a blind man. (Note: The capacity of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition, is 2 X 109) A storage capacity of 107, would be a very practicable possibility even by present techniques. It is probably not necessary to increase the speed of operations of the machines at all. Parts of modern machines which can be regarded as analogs of nerve cells work about a thousand times faster than the latter. This should provide a “margin of safety” which could cover losses of speed arising in many ways, Our problem then is to find out how to programme these machines to play the game. At my present rate of working I produce about a thousand digits of progratiirne a day, so that about sixty workers, working steadily through the fifty years might accomplish the job, if nothing went into the wastepaper basket. Some more expeditious method seems desirable.
In the process of trying to imitate an adult human mind we are bound to think a good deal about the process which has brought it to the state that it is in. We may notice three components.
(a) The initial state of the mind, say at birth,
(b) The education to which it has been subjected,
(c) Other experience, not to be described as education, to which it has been subjected.
Instead of trying to produce a programme to simulate the adult mind, why not rather try to produce one which simulates the child’s? If this were then subjected to an appropriate course of education one would obtain the adult brain. Presumably the child brain is something like a notebook as one buys it from the stationer’s. Rather little mechanism, and lots of blank sheets. (Mechanism and writing are from our point of view almost synonymous.) Our hope is that there is so little mechanism in the child brain that something like it can be easily programmed. The amount of work in the education we can assume, as a first approximation, to be much the same as for the human child.
We have thus divided our problem into two parts. The child programme and the education process. These two remain very closely connected. We cannot expect to find a good child machine at the first attempt. One must experiment with teaching one such machine and see how well it learns. One can then try another and see if it is better or worse. There is an obvious connection between this process and evolution, by the identifications
Structure of the child machine = hereditary material
Changes of the child machine = mutation,
Natural selection = judgment of the experimenter
One may hope, however, that this process will be more expeditious than evolution. The survival of the fittest is a slow method for measuring advantages. The experimenter, by the exercise of intelligence, should he able to speed it up. Equally important is the fact that he is not restricted to random mutations. If he can trace a cause for some weakness he can probably think of the kind of mutation which will improve it.
It will not be possible to apply exactly the same teaching process to the machine as to a normal child. It will not, for instance, be provided with legs, so that it could not be asked to go out and fill the coal scuttle. Possibly it might not have eyes. But however well these deficiencies might be overcome by clever engineering, one could not send the creature to school without the other children making excessive fun of it. It must be given some tuition. We need not be too concerned about the legs, eyes, etc. The example of Miss Helen Keller shows that education can take place provided that communication in both directions between teacher and pupil can take place by some means or other.
We normally associate punishments and rewards with the teaching process. Some simple child machines can be constructed or programmed on this sort of principle. The machine has to be so constructed that events which shortly preceded the occurrence of a punishment signal are unlikely to be repeated, whereas a reward signal increased the probability of repetition of the events which led up to it. These definitions do not presuppose any feelings on the part of the machine, I have done some experiments with one such child machine, and succeeded in teaching it a few things, but the teaching method was too unorthodox for the experiment to be considered really successful.
The use of punishments and rewards can at best be a part of the teaching process. Roughly speaking, if the teacher has no other means of communicating to the pupil, the amount of information which can reach him does not exceed the total number of rewards and punishments applied. By the time a child has learnt to repeat “Casabianca” he would probably feel very sore indeed, if the text could only be discovered by a “Twenty Questions” technique, every “NO” taking the form of a blow. It is necessary therefore to have some other “unemotional” channels of communication. If these are available it is possible to teach a machine by punishments and rewards to obey orders given in some language, e.g., a symbolic language. These orders are to be transmitted through the “unemotional” channels. The use of this language will diminish greatly the number of punishments and rewards required.
Opinions may vary as to the complexity which is suitable in the child machine. One might try to make it as simple as possible consistently with the general principles. Alternatively one might have a complete system of logical inference “built in.”‘ In the latter case the store would be largely occupied with definitions and propositions. The propositions would have various kinds of status, e.g., well-established facts, conjectures, mathematically proved theorems, statements given by an authority, expressions having the logical form of proposition but not belief-value. Certain propositions may be described as “imperatives.” The machine should be so constructed that as soon as an imperative is classed as “well established” the appropriate action automatically takes place. To illustrate this, suppose the teacher says to the machine, “Do your homework now.” This may cause “Teacher says ‘Do your homework now’ ” to be included amongst the well-established facts. Another such fact might be, “Everything that teacher says is true.” Combining these may eventually lead to the imperative, “Do your homework now,” being included amongst the well-established facts, and this, by the construction of the machine, will mean that the homework actually gets started, but the effect is very satisfactory. The processes of inference used by the machine need not be such as would satisfy the most exacting logicians. There might for instance be no hierarchy of types. But this need not mean that type fallacies will occur, any more than we are bound to fall over unfenced cliffs. Suitable imperatives (expressed within the systems, not forming part of the rules of the system) such as “Do not use a class unless it is a subclass of one which has been mentioned by teacher” can have a similar effect to “Do not go too near the edge.”
The imperatives that can be obeyed by a machine that has no limbs are bound to be of a rather intellectual character, as in the example (doing homework) given above. important amongst such imperatives will be ones which regulate the order in which the rules of the logical system concerned are to be applied, For at each stage when one is using a logical system, there is a very large number of alternative steps, any of which one is permitted to apply, so far as obedience to the rules of the logical system is concerned. These choices make the difference between a brilliant and a footling reasoner, not the difference between a sound and a fallacious one. Propositions leading to imperatives of this kind might be “When Socrates is mentioned, use the syllogism in Barbara” or “If one method has been proved to be quicker than another, do not use the slower method.” Some of these may be “given by authority,” but others may be produced by the machine itself, e.g. by scientific induction.
The idea of a learning machine may appear paradoxical to some readers. How can the rules of operation of the machine change? They should describe completely how the machine will react whatever its history might be, whatever changes it might undergo. The rules are thus quite time-invariant. This is quite true. The explanation of the paradox is that the rules which get changed in the learning process are of a rather less pretentious kind, claiming only an ephemeral validity. The reader may draw a parallel with the Constitution of the United States.
An important feature of a learning machine is that its teacher will often be very largely ignorant of quite what is going on inside, although he may still be able to some extent to predict his pupil’s behavior. This should apply most strongly to the later education of a machine arising from a child machine of well-tried design (or programme). This is in clear contrast with normal procedure when using a machine to do computations one’s object is then to have a clear mental picture of the state of the machine at each moment in the computation. This object can only be achieved with a struggle. The view that “the machine can only do what we know how to order it to do,”‘ appears strange in face of this. Most of the programmes which we can put into the machine will result in its doing something that we cannot make sense (if at all, or which we regard as completely random behaviour. Intelligent behaviour presumably consists in a departure from the completely disciplined behaviour involved in computation, but a rather slight one, which does not give rise to random behaviour, or to pointless repetitive loops. Another important result of preparing our machine for its part in the imitation game by a process of teaching and learning is that “human fallibility” is likely to be omitted in a rather natural way, i.e., without special “coaching.” (The reader should reconcile this with the point of view on pages 23 and 24.) Processes that are learnt do not produce a hundred per cent certainty of result; if they did they could not be unlearnt.
It is probably wise to include a random element in a learning machine. A random element is rather useful when we are searching for a solution of some problem. Suppose for instance we wanted to find a number between 50 and 200 which was equal to the square of the sum of its digits, we might start at 51 then try 52 and go on until we got a number that worked. Alternatively we might choose numbers at random until we got a good one. This method has the advantage that it is unnecessary to keep track of the values that have been tried, but the disadvantage that one may try the same one twice, but this is not very important if there are several solutions. The systematic method has the disadvantage that there may be an enormous block without any solutions in the region which has to be investigated first. Now the learning process may be regarded as a search for a form of behaviour which will satisfy the teacher (or some other criterion). Since there is probably a very large number of satisfactory solutions the random method seems to be better than the systematic. It should be noticed that it is used in the analogous process of evolution. But there the systematic method is not possible. How could one keep track of the different genetical combinations that had been tried, so as to avoid trying them again?
We may hope that machines will eventually compete with men in all purely intellectual fields. But which are the best ones to start with? Even this is a difficult decision. Many people think that a very abstract activity, like the playing of chess, would be best. It can also be maintained that it is best to provide the machine with the best sense organs that money can buy, and then teach it to understand and speak English. This process could follow the normal teaching of a child. Things would be pointed out and named, etc. Again I do not know what the right answer is, but I think both approaches should be tried.
We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” Alan Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence;” Mind, 1950.
Numero Dos—“Disciplining Reproduction in Modernity
This book has analyzed the formation and coalescence of the reproductive sciences as a disciplinary enterprise in the United States between 1910 and 1963. It has examined the reproductive sciences as social worlds situated in a much broader reproductive arena that included other salient worlds such as social movements and funding sources, offering a historical and sociological ‘big picture’ of the development of the reproductive sciences through an ecology of knowledge and the conditions of its production. In concluding, I provide a synopsis of the argument and then revisit the themes of the book: disciplinary formation and the social worlds/arenas approach; illegitimacy, controversy, and the construction of boundaries; concerns with gender and the technosciences of reproduction; and, last, the goal of controlling life by disciplining reproduction in modernity.
Synopsis Of The Argument
I began these stories at the turn of the twentieth century with a portrait of the life sciences and the related institutions in which the American reproductive sciences would soon emerge. The social processes characteristic of this period were those of industrialization—
The major professional social worlds that would soon participate in the formation and coalescence of the reproductive sciences—biology, medicine, and agriculture—all offered academic homes. Social movements focused on birth control, eugenics, and neo-Malthusianism, along with developing animal production industries were becoming new markets for such knowledge. All were at the forefront of articulation of goals of control over reproduction throughout the “Great Chain of Being” in the new world order of the early twentieth century. The laws of nature were to be supplanted by the scientific ingenuity of humans as the means and mechanisms of rationalization and industrialization passed from the factory to agricultural and social life. Fundamental to this transformation was the shift in the locus of control over the means of biological reproduction from nature to human through the reproductive sciences and their technoscientific products.
Major reform movements in the life sciences were also occurring. At the turn of the century, these sciences were shifting from predominantly morphological to experimental modes of working. They were also undergoing a major conceptual and practical redivision of labor as newly framed disciplines of genetics, developmental embryology, and evolutionary theory were teased out of what in retrospect was once a densely tangled nexus of concerns. In the expanding academy, a new, overarching domain of “biology” served to hold all these new and older life science disciplines together. Largely beyond the boundaries of the academy, the discipline of sexology was developing, nursed along by scientific and clinical men in private institutions and organizations.
The comparative “lateness” of the development of the physiology of reproduction was a key feature of its emergence and disciplinary formation. The illegitimacy of the scientific pursuit of reproductive problems, “problems of sex,” was apparent from the outset. Interestingly, the autonomy of reproductive problems as a discipline was first articulated in 1910 through the work of F.H.A. Marshall. His pioneering book, The Physiology of Reproduction , carefully distinguished the study of reproduction from that of genetics and cytology. Unconcerned with evolutionary theory and developmental embryology, Marshall instead deemed the problems of reproduction sufficient unto themselves for a new discipline. Disciplinary formation began at about the same time in the United States. By 1920, blood-borne hormones of reproduction and the vaginal smear, the two major nonhuman actors in the saga, along with many research materials, especially the hypophysectomized rat, were all on the scene. And most had come from the embryological investigations so dear to the hearts of American (as compared with British) life scientists.
The problem structures of the American reproductive sciences across the three professions varied. Biologists tended to focus on analytic problems such as sex determination, sex differentiation, and fertilization, with
the species as their basic unit of analysis. Medical reproductive scientists tended to focus on the reproductive system as a system, as medical research tends to reflect the organization of service delivery. And agricultural scientists tended to focus on the reproductive system in particularly profitable and manipulable domestic organisms. Across all three professional domains, the major problems addressed during the 1910–25 era were fertilization, sex differentiation, the estrus and menstrual cycles in females, ovarian function, and the corpus luteum. In agriculture, chicken reproduction was successfully industrialized by means of technological solutions to natural limitations, including incubators. There were also some nascent developments in reproductive endocrinology as well, including the discovery of estrogens by the mid-1920s.
At about this time, Frank Lillie of the University of Chicago, already a statesman of American science, framed reproductive research as “the biology of sex,” including some of his own group’s work. Lillie was clear that these problems were ripe for investigation—reproductive research was doable. But doability includes affording the costs of research, and the new experimental approaches were considerably more costly and increasingly difficult to squeeze out of departmental budgets. External support became tremendously appealing. Lillie’s potent framing of “the biology of sex” had been done at the suggestion of Robert Yerkes, chairman of the new National Research Council Committee for Research in Problems of Sex (NRC/CRPS), of which Lillie was a charter member. Yerkes had asked all members to help frame an agenda for research to be funded by this committee, founded in 1921 for the express purpose of supporting human sexuality research to solve social problems. Lillie’s was, however, the only agenda developed.
Most of the biological problems Lillie framed were funded, creating a number of major new American centers of research on “problems of sex” and reproduction in biological and medical contexts. The biologists thus succeeded in seizing the means of studying reproduction—over twenty years of funding and the considerable prestige of sponsorship by major American scientific institutions, the NRC and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Division of Natural Sciences. “Human side” proposals to investigate sexuality were largely put on hold until about 1940. Then the committee, repositioned in the Medical Division of the Rockefeller Foundation, shifted its emphasis in that direction, providing extensive and sustained support to Alfred Kinsey’s sex research for well over a decade. By the 1940s, the reproductive sciences had also developed alternative funding sources.
During the coalescence of the reproductive sciences around endocrinology between 1925 and 1940, concern with nonhuman research materials heightened as the collection of sows’ ovaries, bulls’ testes, mares’ blood, and stallions’ urine, along with colonies of rats, opossums, and nonhuman
primates, became requisite. Reproductive scientists also made the right (glandular) connections by carefully exploiting the linkages between reproductive endocrinology and general endocrinology. The NRC/CRPS published Allen’s Sex and Internal Secretions in 1932 (Allen, ed., 1932), which fast became the American bible of the reproductive sciences. Study of the internal secretions, reproductive endocrinology, became the “model work” and core activity of the reproductive sciences during the years between 1925 and 1940. The chief naturally occurring estrogens, androgens, and progesterone were isolated and characterized, and the anterior pituitary, placental, and endometrial gonadotropins were also discovered.
At this juncture, the main goal of reproductive scientists regarding their discipline and professions was to put reproductive research “on the map” as a fully scientific, appropriately experimental, appropriately physiological and later biochemical endeavor. Reigning paradigms and standards of scientific research had to be applied in full, systematically and routinely. Coalescence thus also included the usual activities of professionalization of a new discipline: publishing new journals, forming new associations, and holding national and international meetings. Between 1925 and 1940, however, reproductive scientists tended to professionalize within their usual venues in biology, medicine, and agriculture, publishing in their own professional journals. There was one key transprofessional journal, Endocrinology , and almost all reproductive scientists published there. The journal was published by the Association for the Study of Internal Secretions, the key organization of the intersection, now the Endocrine Society. Only after World War II did reproductive scientists form additional transprofessional societies; the Society for the Study of Reproduction was not formed until 1967, with its journal, Biology of Reproduction , first published in 1969.
While there were tensions in the field, both before and after World War II, the new discipline of the reproductive sciences did much in the service of each profession. It provided biologists with a new line of research as they sought to expand their discipline. It provided medicine with a wide array of nonsurgical diagnostics and therapeutics for functional reproductive problems in gynecology and urology/andrology. And it provided agriculture with revolutionary reproductive technologies that dramatically improved animal production. Last but not least, it provided a fundable set of research problems for all, furthering each profession’s place in the sun.
A key story of the disciplining of reproduction in modernity relates how, between roughly 1915 and 1945, the very nature of what modern contraception would be was negotiated between reproductive scientists and several varieties of birth control advocates—lay feminists, physicians, eugenicists, and neo-Malthusians. To recruit reproductive scientists into the birth control arena, the means of contraception had to be made scientific. This ran
counter to the explicit desires of birth control advocates, such as Margaret Sanger, for improved simple means such as diaphragms and spermicides. These could be controlled by women to enhance their own sexual and reproductive autonomy. Reproductive scientists ultimately captured definitional authority as physicians, eugenicists, and neo-Malthusians conservatized the birth control movement into one for family planning and population control, displacing feminists from key organizational positions.
Reproductive scientists used several strategies in relation to their often insistent market audience of birth control advocates to assert their legitimacy, autonomy, and cultural authority. First, they carefully distinguished reproductive research from contraceptive research, refusing to participate in studies of simple contraceptives and making marginal within the profession any reproductive scientists who did so. Second, they argued with birth control advocates for basic research as the ultimate source of modern contraception and made token offerings from their “basic” research work (such as accurate information on the timing of ovulation). Third, they redirected contraceptive research toward new scientificmethods: hormonal contraception, spermatoxins, IUDs, and sterilization by radiation.
Ultimately, by about 1945, a quid pro quo was established between the reproductive sciences and birth control worlds. Through negotiations among birth control advocates, reproductive scientists, hormones, foundations, laboratories, the National Research Council, primates, and others, a congruence of interests was reached that adequately “fit” the changing needs of the various arena participants. This quid pro quo could only have been achieved given shifts within the various birth control movements themselves between 1915 and 1940. The contraceptive advocacy of these movements shifted from commitments to individual choice to social control over reproduction, from a focus on qualities of individuals to quantities of populations, and from user control to professional medical control over the means of contraception. It was these shifts that had led lay birth control advocates themselves to seek “scientific” rather than “simple” means of contraception. In the 1950s and 1960s, the quid pro quo was consolidated as reproductive scientists largely outside the academy finally produced the major modern scientific means of contraception—birth control pills, IUDs, injectable hormones, and improved means of surgical sterilization. All of these modern scientific methods have become part of the “socialization of reproductive behavior” of “the Malthusian couple,” in Foucault’s (1978) terms. Thus was reproduction disciplined for lay people as well as scientists.
The American reproductive sciences have had an unusual funding career. Despite serious legitimacy problems, they were quite successful prior to World War II in obtaining external funding from highly prestigious
sources well within the mainstream of the biomedical research community. The stature of these sources was particularly impressive and significant, including three NRC committees, the Rockefeller, Macy, and Markle foundations, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Remarkably, during the 1920s, the Rockefeller-funded NRC/CRPS gleaned about 10 percent of all the funding of the entire NRC. Both the funds and their provenance lent sorely needed legitimacy and support to the development of reproductive research as a viable scientific enterprise in the decades before World War II. A wide variety of industries also contributed funds and materials to university-based reproductive research efforts, and the American and European pharmaceutical industries also directly sponsored some investigations. External expenditures on reproductive research in the United States between 1922 and 1940 (in 1976 dollars) have been estimated at $1,295,900 (Greep, Koblinsky, and Jaffe 1976:371). Actual external support figures are undeterminable, but my estimates are nearly twice this figure.
The reproductive sciences have been and continue to be viewed as illegitimate. For some groups, this reputation is due to their association with sexuality and reproduction; for others it results from their association with clinical quackery and problematic treatments (from rejuvenescence to DES to contraceptives’ negative side effects). For yet others their association with controversial social movements (eugenics, birth control, abortion, population control) make them anathema. But it is their association with the construction of “brave new worlds,” in which nature itself is manipulated, transforming and reconfiguring human and animal bodies and reproductive capacities—producing cyborgs or clones—that has drawn the most opposition to date. In consequence, reproductive scientists have received no Nobel Prizes for their work; they have received fewer awards and, many would assert, lesser rewards. Moreover, they must routinely devote time and energy to coping with and managing the illegitimacy of their pursuits to some constituencies. Paradoxically, their success has been made possible not only by their own efforts but also by the sustained support of highly prestigious scientific organizations, philanthropies, and individuals who have provided funding, legitimacy, and many other kinds of support for the better part of a century.
While the reproductive sciences did not share in initial federal largesse in terms of research support immediately after World War II, by the 1960s federal support began expanding to impressive levels. In addition, powerful new foundation support (especially from the Ford Foundation) came forth, promoting the consolidation of new alliances among the reproductive sciences, birth control, and population control worlds. Significantly, it was not until population issues and scientific contraception were matters of public
policy and federal support that scientific organizations broadly focused on reproduction come into being.
Disciplinary Formation and Social Worlds/Arenas
Most studies of disciplinary formation are case studies. Within social studies of science and technology, there have been ongoing debates about the definitions and usefulness of different units of analysis such as discipline, research school, research center, field, specialty area, and/or profession. Typically, these debates get lost in a morass of finely tuned definitions. I chose instead to focus here on examination of the broader situation—the reproductive arena—in which the reproductive sciences successfully emerged and coalesced. Like American nuclear physics, the formation of the American reproductive sciences was very “field-dependent,” and the social worlds/arenas approach captures the field in a complex fashion. I have examined particular research centers of the American reproductive sciences elsewhere.
Social worlds and arenas analysis offers a number of analytic advantages to studies of disciplinary formation. First, and of special import in historical research, social worlds analysis bridges internal and external concerns by encompassing the involvement and contributions of all the salient social worlds. Both internal and external topics may be relevant. Social worlds are genuinely social units of analysis, elastic and plastic enough to allow very diverse applications. One can avoid misrepresenting collective social actors as monolithic by examining diversities within worlds, while still tracking and tracing their overall collective perspectives, ideologies, thrusts, and goals. One can comfortably analyze the work of particular individuals as important to the arena, without being limited to an individual approach. Perhaps most important, in the very framing of an arena, one is analytically led to examine the negotiations within and between worlds that are most consequential for the development of the arena over time.
This study speaks to a few issues raised in the recent literature on disciplinary formation. First, some recent technoscience studies have drawn on, if not centered on, the implications of the actual practices of science for disciplinary formation, standing the traditional theory-driven notion of disciplinary formation on its head. Similarly, I have discussed such techniques as the vaginal smear and the hypophysectomized rat as key experimental technologies in disciplinary formation and coalescence. Given the very slow pace of most mammalian reproductive processes in vivo—a matter of some comment in my interviews with reproductive and related scientists—the
vaginal smear was a key technical resource facilitating the doability of research in the emergent discipline. Hormone extracts, hypophysectomized rats, and vaginal smears together made a wonderful theory/methods package (Fujimura 1996). They composed the “right tools for the job” (Clarke and Fujimura 1992) of reproductive endocrinology.
Second, several recent studies, also countertraditionally, have taken up the effects of medical practices—clinical work—on the historical organization of biomedical sciences. Lowy (1987, 1993), for example, offers an elegant analysis of how scientific and clinical lines of work in medicine can move closer together to jointly establish a new specialty area and yet hold on to and later retreat back into more usual autonomous styles of interaction. The reproductive sciences followed a parallel pattern. Like Lowy, Baszanger’s (1992, 1995, 1998a,b) study of disciplinary formation found much movement across time but found local contingency more consequential: different models of the “new” discipline of “pain medicine” emerged in different places depending upon both the local formations of the “original” disciplines and the commitments of the major actors at specific sites. Similarly, the cross-professional intersections among biological, medical, and agricultural reproductive scientists examined here were shaped by patterns of both production and market consumption. Moreover, given the distinctive institutional and professional independence of participants, collaboration posed few risks of loss of professional autonomy. As Baszanger also found, there was much local variation in the kinds and degrees of cross-professional intersectionality and in the general shape of local centers of the reproductive sciences.
Rue Bucher’s (1988) work on the organization of medicine over time argues that we can usefully view disciplines, specialties, and segments thereof as social movements. Similarly, Halpern’s (1988) study of the formation of pediatrics as a medical specialty specified that changes in work patterns can promote and provoke new organizational forms. New occupational segments can become specialties that (re)structure markets for service delivery. In the case of the reproductive sciences examined here, the desires of gynecologists for functional rather than surgical interventions to sustain their specialty in the earlier decades of this century certainly provided legitimacy for medical reproductive scientists for many years—indeed, through the present. The division of labor in animal agriculture by type of domestic animal similarly created “specialty” sites for the application of reproductive interventions to improve production. The potential for immediate market payoffs added impetus.
New specialties may also form in conjunction with social movements and social problems. At the beginning of the twentieth century, this pattern characterized pediatrics in relation to child and family reform (Halpern 1988), and nutrition science in relation to labor/management conflict
(Aronson 1979, 1982). The notion of social movements invoking and perhaps even inscribing new sciences has also been brought home to roost in this volume regarding transformations in the birth control, neo-Malthusian, and eugenics movements, which had multiple relations with the study of reproductive phenomena. Crucially, all these movements were present at the outset, creating and sustaining a public reproductive arena and a technoscientific marketplace in which the reproductive sciences were able to become key actors.
Disciplines must often be constructed and maintained against other disciplinary enemies in a very conflictful field of strategic action (Bourdieu 1975; Cambrosio and Keating 1983). Here the ability to exercise “collegiate” control of the production and reproduction of knowledge is fundamental. I find the metaphor of a conflictful field compelling, but the case presented here both exemplifies it and offers a counterexample. The reproductive sciences exemplify conflict in terms of ongoing competition for scientific legitimacy and in terms of seizing or stealing the means of knowledge production from sexology in its takeover of the NRC/CRPS. But the reproductive sciences also provide a counterexample, a discipline that emerged “late,” one might even say reluctantly, only when fed, nurtured, and legitimated by extrascientific interests and social worlds. The case of the formation and coalescence of demography offers a similar counterexample (Demeny 1988; Greenhalgh 1996). I suspect Bourdieu’s agonistic field approach may be more salient where the science in question is not itself controversial, or when there is intense competition over scarce resources.
Actor network theory, developed by Latour, Callon, and Law, treats the network as the unit of analysis rather than a discipline or specialty per se. I view actor networks as an “allied” and useful perspective in the fullest sense. I especially value its inclusion of nonhumans, which I have focused upon here and in other stories about the reproductive sciences (Clarke 1987, 1993, 1995a). Yet networks and worlds are analytically different. Network analysis emphasizes the recruitment and enrollment of allies instead of the mutuality of negotiations or the trade-offs often featured in social worlds analyses. Further, implicated actors—those silent or not present but affected by the action—are invisible in network analyses and are structurally rendered invisible, just as the silent or silenced are invisible in conversational analysis. They can easily be taken into account in a social worlds approach. In actor networks, differences among actors are also submerged, while in social worlds approaches they are highlighted and can be examined in ongoing negotiations. Many actor network studies feature an “executive” node that somehow is in charge of the action. In social worlds studies, the distribution of power is more an empirical question to be addressed.
Accounts of disciplinary formation can, inadvertently or not, merely pro-
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vide second-order legitimations of dominant “insider histories,” or of other insider accounts that already serve as the first-order legitimations of a field, as Abir-Am (1985) notes. All histories may well be hagiographic in that they selectively attend to some aspects of the past over others, a phenomenon akin to the adage “There’s no such thing as bad advertising.” Abir-Am (1985:106, 75) objects to “a view [of science] which projects its products, scientific discoveries and facts—as a simplistic derivation of natural reality,” and to an approach that is “systematically evasive on the questions of conceptual dissent in both the past and present.” To counteract such tendencies, she calls for attention to power as fluid across situations, to hierarchies, to differences and conflicts of perspective within the science, and to resistances.
A social worlds/arenas analysis attends to all these issues. It can take the deconstructive process further, going beyond the confines of the scientific work itself into the wider social sites of action and interaction where that science “matters.” Arenas are the places where the “differences” a (techno) science makes are recognized and monitored. Here differences among scientists were featured not only in terms of professional background and concerns (biology, medicine, and agriculture) but also in terms of ongoing tensions in the discipline (largely between more organismic and more reductionist endocrinological commitments). I have addressed not only sociopolitical and other differences within the discipline but also relations with kindred social movements and funding sources. Admittedly, the formation of the reproductive sciences does lend itself to such deconstruction because the illegitimacy of the science and the controversial nature of the arena clarify such differences and conflicts, which are often unarticulated in the historical record. But I would argue that the social worlds and arenas framework draws these elements into the analytic foreground regardless. The range of variation of participants’ interests and perspectives is to be specified and not papered over in favor of a more consensual, monolithic, or universalizing narrative of development. Differences and conflict are key analytic moments to be highlighted rather than obscured.
In analyzing disciplinary formation, Shapin (1992) made a strong case for not wholly abandoning notions of internal and external aspects of scientific work (in favor of networks, for example) as categories of analysis. The social worlds/arenas framework allows such distinctions to serve as an analytic resource and provides a reliable way in which to represent the perspectives of the actors under study. Further, the arena model provokes more refined analytic attention to specifying the “external,” rather than leaving it unspecified and undifferentiated—as in some mythic “society.” The other social worlds in the arena also must be understood on their own terms.
Related to these concerns with the problematics of disciplinary formation are recent approaches in technology studies. The key salient argu-
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ments from the “social construction of technology” approach are, first, that the analysis should focus on the design stage rather than on the downstream “social impacts” of technologies, for technologies are constructed by particular actors who have particular interests and perspectives at particular moments of history. Second, the “engineering” required to build technologies and their delivery systems includes social and political elements, as well as technical and economic elements more traditionally placed at the center of analysis. Third, the delivery systems should actually be conceived as integral elements of the technology per se because in practice they are inseparable. Such works have emphasized the “seamless web” of relations and, especially relevant here, configuring the users of technologies to accept them. I have found these approaches both very useful and largely congruent with social worlds/arenas analysis. We can certainly see in the sustained illegitimacy of the reproductive sciences, and the impossibility of closure regarding contraceptive technologies, how delivery systems are consequential in terms of attempting to configure users and engendering resistance. Webs are not necessarily seamless.
The social worlds/arenas approach also, of course, has limitations. First, in seeking so seriously to (re)present the perspectives of the actors in its gaze, it risks displacing others’ perspectives, including my own. I had to be especially reflexive to avoid getting lost in reproductive scientists’ stories and losing sight of the wider arena. Had a major overview of disciplinary formation of the reproductive sciences existed when I began, I would have focused much more on the negotiations among the social worlds within the arena, concerns here largely restricted to the chapters on the NRC/CRPS and on the construction of the contraceptive quid pro quo. Further, I would have investigated more deeply feminist perspectives on women’s health articulated in negotiations with reproductive scientists between 1920 and 1965. Second, social worlds/arenas approaches to date articulate awkwardly with discursive approaches, although both are constructionist. For example, Foucault’s approach to the ways in which disciplinary discourses (re)constitute and (re)constellate actors such as the Malthusian couple and the hysterical woman would be valuable to pursue in relation to the reproductive sciences. A coherent integration of such approaches awaits further effort.
Boundaries, Controversy, and Illegitimacy
Boundary work (Gieryn 1995) is central to the disciplinary formation stories told here. All boundaries are about difference claims of some sort. I have discussed six types of boundaries that have been salient to the disciplining of reproduction across the twentieth century. First, the boundary between science and society usually claimed by science was rarely solid but
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rather opaque or transparent to almost everyone in terms of the visibility of applications. This is a fundamental feature of the reproductive sciences. Moreover, as in molecular biology (Kay 1993a), the intended applications of the reproductive sciences were inscribed on that work from the outset, especially but not only by the social movements supporting it.
Second, boundaries between sciences, delimiting one discipline from another, typically very important during disciplinary formation, were important here. The segmentation of genetics, developmental embryology, and evolutionary theory also framed a clear set of “problems of sex” for pursuit. While there were some blurred edges to the boundaries of these emergent disciplines, relative coherence within each was quickly achieved. In several cases, the coherence was distinctively American.
Third, boundaries constructed within a discipline, which define what is to count as “basic” versus “applied” knowledge and research, were extremely important to reproductive scientists. Initially attempting to construct a fully basic research discipline, reproductive scientists undertook more “applied” work inside the academy only when acting in the capacity of agricultural scientists or when external philanthropic and federal research support was available for it, largely after World War II. Fourth, boundaries between the “normal” and the “pathological” largely paralleled those between “basic” and “applied.” However, I would also argue strongly that both of these boundaries (basic/applied and normal/pathological) were and remain open to renegotiation. Like the color line in the United States (Park 1952), they move. Such negotiations were intense during the period I examine.
The introduction of biochemistry into biological, medical, and agricultural sites of reproductive science further destabilized these boundaries. In the 1940s and 1950s, the boundaries between the normal and the pathological were deeply challenged. Diethylstilbestrol and other estrogenic hormones were used in medicine in ways that reconstructed what was to count as normal and as pathological. For example, menopause was recast from a natural or normal process to a pathological one. (Thus was Foucault’s hysterical woman addressed.) In agriculture, providing estrogenic supplements to normal animals to intensify feedlot weight gain was similarly “naturalized.” Perhaps most radically, the birth control pill, a medication to be taken daily by otherwise healthy women, in some ways reconfigured the face of biomedicine. The Pill even recast the “technoscience frames” of pharmaceutical companies, which at that time were quite shocked by the willingness of healthy women to take such potent drugs on a regular basis. The women’s willingness demonstrates how assiduously control over reproduction was sought by multiple and heterogeneous actors to whom such boundaries could become essentially irrelevant.
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Fifth, boundaries of hierarchy, prestige, and cultural authority within a discipline in this case study also by and large paralleled those between “basic” and “applied.” That is, within each profession (biology, medicine, and agriculture), the more basic investigators typically had greater prestige within the scientific world. However, beyond the walls of academe, prestige has often accrued to applied researchers whose contributions were known and valued more widely and lucratively. Last, in the rank orderings of the sciences themselves, the reproductive sciences have been placed quite low on the totem pole. The sustained illegitimacy of these sciences and the intensity of controversies surrounding them have continued to assure their relatively deprivileged status.
Yet the reproductive sciences were also founded on an erasure, or at least a dimming, of boundaries—both professional and religious. These sciences began as an intersectional effort with disciplinary formation and contributors in biology, medicine, and agriculture, along with deep linkages to philanthropy and to birth control, eugenics, and neo-Malthusian movements. This dense “web of group affiliations” (Simmel 1904/1971) has protected the reproductive sciences for many decades. However, to some constituencies and science observers, the carefully stitched seams that hold this web together are much less reminiscent of a cozy quilt than they are of Frankenstein—a monster composed of soiled, unnatural, and obscene parts cobbled together in violation of all that is holy, natural, or uniquely human. To some, the reproductive sciences were deformed at their very birth, but not, as Herbert Evans has argued, by their initial association with quackery. Instead these sciences are inherently deformed. They dare to represent and intervene in one of the most sacred domains of human life—reproduction. They are Frankenstein’s monster himself as a scientist (Bann 1994)!
Thus some boundaries seem clear and salient precisely because of the illegitimacy of the work of reproductive sciences and the controversies surrounding it. These boundaries are important not only to the reproductive sciences but also to other sciences and nonscientific worlds. For example, the boundary between the reproductive sciences and genetics is publicly construed by most geneticists as absolute and never to be crossed. While prenatal genetic screening and diagnostics, gene therapies, and fetal surgery are all predicated on the availability of abortion and other reproductive science interventions, these necessities must not be mentioned. Instead, lay people and reproductive scientists alike are to focus on the miracles of the “new reproductive technologies,” creating a new discourse of scientific promise. These technologies of conception promise no less than the resurrection, by technoscientific means, of the heterosexual nuclear family (Franklin 1995; Casper 1998). Today, demand for and appreciation of these technologies protect the reproductive sciences from even further controversy.
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Gender and the Technosciences of Reproduction
If one attends to who or what is present in an arena but silenced, not present but targeted or otherwise involved either at the moment or downstream, conflicts are foregrounded and so are the fluidities of power, very much as Abir-Am (1985) desires. In this saga of the development of the reproductive sciences, women were mostly implicated actors. A few were scientists, but they moved into regular academic positions only after World War II decimated the male academic ranks. Others were birth control activists and feminist physicians in the birth control movement and its clinics (see references in chapter 6). But overall, women were mostly the targeted consumers of technoscientific products. I originally generated the concept of implicated actors by trying to account for women in this saga of the formation of the reproductive sciences. I wanted to strengthen social worlds and arenas theory by representing the implicit as well as the explicit, the quiet or silenced along with the loud and predominant. I was, of course, familiar with the ways in which medicine and science have constructed certain social actors, often but certainly not always women, “for their own good.”
Assuming that culture operates through representations and that “the biomedical sciences deploy, and are themselves, systems of representation,” Jordanova (1989:23) has argued that scientific frames permeate lay frames, and that the power to define has been, and remains, largely masculine. Certainly this book has demonstrated that the power to define the science of reproduction and to shape its technoscientific products between 1910 and 1963 was largely masculine. A number of scholars have argued that there was a fundamental shift in the ways in which sex and gender were represented beginning after about 1650, from a predominant biomedical rhetoric of gender hierarchy, with women viewed as “lesser” or “weaker” men, to one of categorical difference that pervades the entire gendered body. The reproductive scientists examined here certainly acted to maintain the theory of categorical difference. In so doing, they violated common assumptions of scientific method about clarity of naming by preserving a hormonal nomenclature of difference that was not evident in their own scientific work. In fact, Lillie’s (1932, 1939) explicit and self-conscious retention of the terminology of “male” and “female” hormones, despite contrary evidence that would have required much more complicated and tentative representations of “nature,” has been retained through the present moment. This constitutes part of what Long (1997) terms the definitive “controlled vocabulary” of sex and gender difference in biomedicine.
Another gender-related concern is the continued insistence by many reproductive scientists and the largely male leadership of what became the family planning and population control institutional matrix that women be viewed as objects rather than subjects. The persistence and intensity of ef-
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forts in these worlds to exclude or marginalize women and women’s concerns and desires regarding contraception is, today, almost shocking. The science I found was peculiarly (however normatively) disengaged from its objects as agentic subjects. This disengagement was peculiar because of the very transparency of reproductive science to most people as supposedly seeking to understand and control reproductive phenomena. Its subjects, female and male, are all too aware of its inadequacies.
Currently there are moves to democratize science and science policy to include what I have called “implicated actors,” those who will be directly affected. Such attempts are being made in the reproductive arena as well. For the present, however, serious inclusion seems a remote possibility. Yet the strength of “weak” actors, like “the strength of weak ties” (Granovetter 1973), can be telling. A national and transnational matrix of feminist women’s health organizations has developed out of heterogeneous resistances. In the United States, product liability cases can also be read as an index of resistance. New markets might emerge from attending to what technoscientific products women themselves want. The latest move in both contraceptive development and reproductive medicine is to focus on the male; new birth control methods and the medical specialty of andrology are likely to alter the face(s) of implicated actors. It will be interesting to see if men as patients of reproductive medicine continue to be treated like women patients as Pfeffer (1985) found.
Disciplining Reproduction/Controlling Life
The sociological tradition in which I was trained asks a simple yet pivotal analytic question about a given research project: What is this a story of? There are many genres of story in this book. There are once-upon-a-time narratives of the making of the reproductive sciences, of “discoveries” and an emerging discipline. There are many tales of contestation among the multiple and heterogeneous social worlds concerned with reproduction in twentieth-century America, with each world trying to shape the reproductive sciences in its own interests. There are tales of money flowing, ebbing, and flowing again. There are sagas of coercion, disease, resistance, and acceptance of the technoscientific products of the reproductive sciences with glee or resignation as they have been distributed across the planet. But the story of disciplining reproduction has most to do with the modernist project of controlling life itself.
Controlling life was and is to be achieved in part by rationalizing and industrializing reproductive processes. Multiple heterogeneous and contradictory groups have had an interest in achieving such control—from elites seeking to control others to individuals, especially women, trying to get
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a grip on their own lives through controlling their reproduction; from eugenicists ultimately trying to control evolution to neo-Malthusians trying to control national and global population size; from philanthropists and foundation executives trying to shape the future of science and human life in varied directions to reproductive scientists trying to do their research. I emphasize heterogeneity again here specifically to disrupt in advance a simplistic reading of the next paragraphs, where I take up questions of control, specifically: Whose control over whose reproduction? And under what conditions? I want to end by offering the beginnings of an answer to a haunting question: Why did the reproductive sciences receive the extensive and prestigious institutional and financial support they did when they were and remain so deeply illegitimate and controversial?
The social movements and philanthropies that put the reproductive sciences on the map were all solidly established by the time those sciences emerged. Each—eugenics, birth control, and neo-Malthusianism—sought some means of (social) control over reproduction. Clearly there were also deep and long-lived commitments among major philanthropists and foundations, especially Rockefeller interests, to the development of improved means of control over reproduction—birth control, population control, eugenics, and family planning. Interestingly, explicit discussion of “why” these commitments are important is almost invisible in the archival materials, which instead focus on “how” funding should be spent.
The Rockefeller Foundation, throughout its early years, as a number of scholars have argued (Kay 1993a,b; Kohler 1991), sought to invest in sciences that had clear social applications, useful in improving the human condition as they construed it . An advisory group stated clearly in 1934, “Indeed we would strongly advocate a shift of emphasis in favor not only of the dissemination of knowledge, but of the practical application of knowledge in fields where human need is great and opportunity is real.” The foundation sought to “rationalize human behavior” with the aim of achieving “control through understanding” so that knowledge could “rapidly pass … from the laboratory to the hospital and home.” There were in these materials what Hall (1978:14) termed “implicit models of human society managed by scientists in the interests of human fulfillment.” Investments in biomedical sciences, including psychiatry, were to produce applications and interventions toward building such models into society. These expectations characterized the NRC/CRPS and the reproductive science it sponsored from the outset. But among some of the men in leadership elites in the early twentieth century, “rather than an end, social control was regarded as a means of enhancing the inevitable progress toward the ideal of democracy” (Fisher 1990:111). Mitman’s (1992) and Cross and Albury’s (1987) concerns with social control strategies frame these as responses to the “crisis of civilization of the times.” During the first decades of the cen-
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tury, the possibilities for natural social spontaneity were read by leadership elites as having come to an end. There was a tremendous need, some believed, for newly engineered mechanisms of scientific social control.
Control over reproduction was commonly viewed as a key part of that need. In 1933, Warren Weaver wrote to Frank Lillie about his new program in vital processes: “To indicate inclusion rather than exclusion, we will interest ourselves particularly in work in genetics; in hormones, vitamins and enzymes; in cell physiology; in nerve physiology; in psychobiology; and in the whole range of problems specifically and fundamentally involved in the biology of reproduction.” In a related statement on the Program in Experimental Biology two years later, Weaver went on: “Of all the recognized interests in the program, none stands closer to practical application than the field of endocrinology and the interrelated field of sex research. Moreover, these fields of research are fundamental to the broad common program of the foundation which seeks a rational understanding of human behavior.” The reproductive sciences could and did provide the kinds of interventions of control the Rockefeller Foundation sought.
In social movement worlds, too, control was the order of the day. Margaret Sanger and her colleagues named their movement the “birth control movement” specifically to embrace the values of rational, scientific management. Sanger noted: “Nothing better expresses the idea of purposive, responsible and self-directed guidance of the reproductive powers. … The verb ‘control’ means to exercise a directing, guiding, or restraining influence. … It implies intelligence, forethought and responsibility” (McCann 1994:11). It also was a necessary part of progress.
But for the reproductive sciences or molecular biology or birth control to be part of a wider framework of social control, they need to be translated into biomedical applications. The biomedicalization of life itself (human, plant, and animal) is the key overarching and usually taken-for-granted social process here. Biomedicalization means the ongoing extension of biomedicine and technology into new and previously unmedicalized aspects of life, often imaged as a juggernaut of technological imperatives (Koenig 1988). Applications that could effect the kinds of biological engineering control discussed at the turn of the century were not generally available until after its midpoint. At that juncture, state-supported institutions such as the National Institutes of Health “pushed to integrate science, therapy and policy,” becoming over the remainder of the century almost “the only research game in town” (Pauly 1993:137). Such integration over the past half century, as recent efforts to change health care organization have revealed, constitutes a robust biomedicalization of life indeed.
Many recent works on the body are concerned with these issues. Duden (1990:1, 4) has argued, ‘To study the making of the modern body is to study the gradual unfolding of something that is now self-evident. … [T]hegenesis of the modern body is consistent with other aspects of the modern image of man, the homo oeconomicus.‘ Further, the modern reproductive body should be governed by what McCann (1994:13–14) terms the economic ethic of fertility , which emerged at the turn of the century and was foundational to the birth control movement. Derived from Thomas Malthus, this ethic asserts that families should not have more children than they can afford to support, constituting a ‘moral prescription’ against ‘large families … [which] assumes a market society in which children, like property, are counted as assets or liabilities. … If society would permit women to follow this ethic, families would not be driven to destitution by the effort to nurture and educate their children. Thus, social efficiency would be enhanced.‘
To follow the economic ethic of fertility, the modern body required and still requires the reproductive sciences and their technoscientific products both to have and to avoid having children. While I agree in part with Latour (1994) that we have never actually been modern, I would argue that this has not been due to lack of effort on the parts of many people. Folbre (1994) has recently deconstructed and reconceptualized “Rational Economic Man” into “Imperfectly Rational Somewhat Economic Persons,” reminding us of the messy and erratic ways in which cultures are practiced. Translating, then, we are at the end of the millennium “sort of modern” in terms of both individual psyches and social philosophies and “somewhat modern” in terms of exercising control over reproduction.
Many of us who study the life sciences and biomedicine have noted that in the future, if not the present, ‘nature will be ‘operationalized’ for the good of society’ (Lock 1993:148). Reproduction is being ‘enterprised up’ (Strathern 1992). In the emergent industry of biotechnology, ‘the politics of fertility [now] extend from the soil to star wars’ (Franklin 1995:326). Our task is to continue to examine these processes. Much scholarly energy has recently been focused on the Human Genome Initiative funded for $3 billion through the NIH and the Department of Energy to map genes and redesign life. However, it has been and continues to be the reproductive sciences that have to date facilitated not only control over reproduction but also control over heredity, and hence over life itself. Warren Weaver well understood the interdependencies of genetics, molecular biology, and the reproductive sciences and the need for all to control life through the ‘new science of man.’ Ironically, the reproductive sciences have themselves been marginalized, and their centrality to the overall project of controlling life has thereby been comparatively ignored—by other scientists and historians and sociologists of science if not by the media and the public. This book, then, has pulled back the veil not from nature but from the reproductive sciences as a discipline that has had considerable success in disciplining reproduction, but has been rendered invisible perhaps as much as it has been applied in modernity and beyond.” Adele Clarke, “Disciplining Reproduction in Modernity;” Chapter Nine in Disciplining Reproduction: Modernity, American Life Sciences, and the Problems of Sex, 1998.
Numero Tres—“The Internet is for everyone!
How easy to say – how hard to achieve!
Where are we in achieving this noble objective?
The Internet is in its 11th year of annual doubling since 1988. There are over 44 million hosts on the Internet and an estimated 150 million users, world wide. By 2006, the Internet is likely to exceed the size of the global telephone network, if it has not by that time become the telephone network by virtue of IP telephony. Moreover, tens of millions of Internet-enabled appliances will have joined traditional servers, desk tops and laptops as part of the Internet family. Pagers, cell phones and personal digital assistants may well have merged to become the new telecommunications tool of the next decade. But even at the scale of the telephone system is it sobering to realize that only half the population of Earth has ever made a telephone call.
It is estimated that commerce on the network will reach somewhere between $1.8T and $3.2T by 2003. That is only four years from now (but a long career in Internet years).
The number of users of Internet will likely reach over 300 million by the end of the year 2000, but that is only about 5% of the world’s population. By 2047 the world’s population may reach about 11 billion. If only 25% of the then-world”s population is on the Internet, that is nearly 3 billion users or ten times the population estimated at the end of the next year.
As high bandwidth access becomes the norm, through digital subscriber loops, cable modems and digital terrestrial and satellite radio links, the convergence of media available on the Internet will become obvious. Television, radio, telephony and the traditional print media will find counterparts on the Internet – and will be changed in profound ways by the presence of software that transforms the one-way media into interactive resources, shareable by many.
The Internet is proving to be one of the most powerful amplifiers of speech every invented. It offers a global megaphone for voices that might otherwise be heard only feebly, if at all. It invites and facilitates multiple points of view and dialog in ways unimplementable by the traditional, one-way, mass media.
The Internet can facilitate democratic practices in unexpected ways. Did you know that proxy voting for stock shareholders is now commonly supported on the Internet? Perhaps we can find additional ways in which to simplify and expand the voting franchise in other domains, including the political, as access to Internet increases.
The Internet is becoming the repository of all we have accomplished as a society. It is becoming a kind of disorganized Boswell of the human spirit. Be thoughtful in what you commit to email, news groups, and other media – it may well turn up in a web search some day. Shared databases on the Internet are acting to accelerate the pace of research progress, thanks to online access to commonly accessible repositories.
The Internet is moving off the planet! Already, interplanetary Internet is part of the NASA Mars mission program now underway at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. By 2008 we should have a well-functioning Earth-Mars network that serves as a nascent backbone of an interplanetary system of Internets – InterPlaNet is a network of Internets! Ultimately, we will have interplanetary Internet relays in polar solar orbit so that they can see most of the planets and their interplanetary gateways for most if not all of the time.
The Internet is for everyone – but it won’t be if it isn’t affordable by all who wish to partake of its services, so we must dedicate ourselves to making Internet as affordable as other infrastructure so critical to our well-being. While we follow Moore’s Law to reduce the cost of Internet-enabling equipment, let us also seek to stimulate regulatory policies that take advantage of the power of competition to reduce costs.
The Internet is for everyone, – but it won’t be if Governments restrict access to it, so we must dedicate ourselves to keeping the network unrestricted, unfettered and unregulated. We must have the freedom to speak and the freedom to hear.
The Internet is for everyone – but it won’t be if it cannot keep up with the explosive demand for its services, so we must dedicate ourselves to continuing its technological evolution and development of the technical standards the lie at the heart of the Internet revolution. Let us dedicate ourselves to the support of the Internet Architecture Board, the Internet Engineering Steering Group, the Internet Research Task Force and the Internet Engineering Task Force as they drive us forward into an unbounded future.
The Internet is for everyone – but it won’t be until in every home, in every business, in every school, in every town and every country on the Globe, Internet can be accessed without limitation, at any time and in every language.
The Internet is for everyone – but it won’t be if it is too complex to be used easily by everyone. Let us dedicate ourselves to the task of simplifying Internet’s interfaces and to educating all who are interested in its use.
The Internet is for everyone – but it won’t be if legislation around the world creates a thicket of incompatible laws that hinder the growth of electronic commerce, stymie the protection of intellectual property, and stifle freedom of expression and the development of market economies. Let us dedicate ourselves to the creation of a global legal framework in which laws work across national boundaries to reinforce the upward spiral of value that Internet is capable of creating.
The Internet is for everyone – but it won’t be if its users cannot protect their privacy and the confidentiality of transactions conducted on the network. Let us dedicate ourselves to the proposition that cryptographic technology sufficient to protect privacy from unauthorized disclosure should be freely available, applicable and exportable. Moreover, as authenticity lies at the heart of trust in networked environments, let us dedicate ourselves to work towards the development of authentication methods and systems capable of supporting electronic commerce through the Internet.
The Internet is for everyone – but it won’t be if parents and teachers cannot voluntarily create protected spaces for our young people for whom the full range of Internet content may be inappropriate. Let us dedicate ourselves to the development of technologies and practices that offer this protective flexibility to those who accept responsibility to provide it.
The Internet is for everyone – but it won’t be if we are not responsible in its use and mindful of the rights of others who share its wealth. Let us dedicate ourselves to the responsible use of this new medium and to the proposition that with the freedoms Internet enables comes a commensurate responsibility to use these powerful enablers with care and consideration. For those who choose to abuse these privileges, let us dedicate ourselves to developing the necessary tools to combat the abuse and punish the abuser.
I hope Internauts everywhere will join with the Internet Society and like-minded organizations to achieve this easily stated but hard to achieve goal. As we near the milestone of the third millennium, what better theme could we possibly ask for than making the Internet the medium of the new millennium?
Internet IS for everyone – but it won’t be unless WE make it so.” Vint Cerf, “The Internet Is for Everyone;” The Internet Society, 1999.
Numero Cuatro—“The debate over the future political status of Puerto Rico has appeared once again in the U.S. Congress, raising the question of what role the nearly 4 million Puerto Ricans living stateside will play in this debate. Two competing House bills, both proposed by Puerto Rican representatives, call for Puerto Ricans to express their preference for statehood, commonwealth, independence, or even for an associated republic in a new plebiscite. The Puerto Rico Democracy Act, proposed in February by Representative José Serrano (D-NY), calls for a two-stage referendum in which voters would first be asked whether they prefer to maintain Puerto Rico’s current commonwealth status or pursue a permanent solution. If the status quo option prevailed, the plebiscite would be repeated every eight years until a permanent option was chosen. If a permanent solution won, a second plebiscite would ask them to choose between statehood and independence.
The bill mirrors the recommendations of a report released in December 2005 by the White House Task Force on the Status of Puerto Rico, commissioned by President Clinton and continued by the Bush administration, to reach a permanent solution following the results of the last plebiscite in 1998. A majority of voters in that vote, 50.3%, chose ‘none of the above,’ a result of a boycott of the vote by the pro-Commonwealth party, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), which objected to how their status option was defined in the ballot.
Meanwhile, Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), who criticized the presidential task force for failing to include Puerto Ricans, introduced the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act, which calls for the formation of a constitutional convention to elect local representatives who would themselves draft the plebiscite to vote among statehood, independence, and a new ‘enhanced commonwealth’ option. The outcome of that plebiscite would then be presented to Congress for approval.
Both bills are viewed by opposing island political parties as biased—Serrano’s toward statehood and Velásquez’s toward a commonwealth victory. This perceived difference in perspective between two Puerto Rican politicians from the same party and the same state highlights new complications in the island’s diaspora with regard to the status question, complications that make forging a common agenda difficult. Indeed, the stateside Puerto Rican population has always had a problematic relationship with Puerto Rico. Especially since the post–World War II great migration, this has been a movement of people tied to the failure of Puerto Rico’s economy, symbolizing a colonial dilemma magnified by its concentration in the world city of New York for so many decades in the 20th century.
The diaspora has always been a bit of a mystery in terms of its attitudes toward its homeland. Because they were now participants in the world’s most advanced economy, were they now supporters of statehood for Puerto Rico? Because they came during the long-term regime of the pro-Commonwealth political party, did they support the status quo? Or did their racialization in the United States make them support independence? And, in the end, does this matter to the future of Puerto Rico?
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One of the most striking recent developments in the Puerto Rican experience was the realization that in 2003 the size of the stateside Puerto Rican community exceeded that of the island for the first time. The latest census figures estimate that in 2005 there were about 3,780,000 Puerto Ricans living in the States compared to about 3,670,000 in Puerto Rico.This has generated considerable discussion in Puerto Rico and in the diaspora, signaling that the stateside Puerto Rican community may now in a position to redefine its relationship to the island.
While there have always been strong connections between Puerto Rico and the stateside Puerto Rican community through family ties and migration, it wasn’t until the 1990s that this relationship took on an increasingly political nature. It was then that the stateside Puerto Rican community increased its representation in the U.S. House of Representatives from one to three—two from New York and one from Chicago, all Democrats. This resulted from the growth of the Puerto Rican population and its ability to more effectively use the federal Voting Rights Act in redistricting. Puerto Rico, on the other hand, continues to elect only one nonvoting resident commissioner to Congress (currently Luis Fortuño, a Republican).
During this period, political elites and activists in Puerto Rico increasingly turned to the stateside Puerto Rican leadership for support on local issues. Whether it was getting favorable U.S. federal policies toward Puerto Rico in terms of tax policy or social welfare expenditures, or the campaign to get the U.S. Navy out of Vieques, the three stateside Puerto Rican congressional representatives became invaluable, reliable allies, along with many Puerto Rican officials at the state and local levels.
Supporting this relationship was the strong nationalist identity of many stateside Puerto Ricans. Manifesting itself in myriad parades, festivals, and cultural events throughout the United States, culminating in early June every year with the massive National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, Puerto Rican nationalism and interest in Puerto Rico remains high. This was buttressed by the “Latin music explosion” starting at the end of the 1990s in which Puerto Rican entertainers played a major role. The successful campaigns to free Puerto Rican political prisoners, which led to pardons and clemency under presidents Carter and Clinton, demonstrated a level of nationalism that many in the United States found confounding.
But new socioeconomic and political developments both stateside and in Puerto Rico have complicated this relationship in ways that make building a common agenda difficult. The model for some is the powerful U.S. Israeli lobby, but this has proved hard to emulate in the Puerto Rican case. First, as mentioned above, the stateside Puerto Rican congressional delegation doesn’t always agree on central issues, especially as their seniority increases and their ties to different political sectors in Puerto Rico deepen.
Second, while historically concentrated in the Northeast, especially New York City, and the Midwest, the U.S. Puerto Rican population has not only increased but has become more dispersed during the last two decades. In the 1990s the Puerto Rican population in Florida dramatically increased, making it the state with the second-largest concentration. Puerto Rican populations are also growing fast in other parts of the South, in smaller cities, and in suburban and ex-urban areas where a Puerto Rican presence is new. This new spatial distribution was accompanied by new patterns of migration from Puerto Rico and new professional and middle classes moving to these new areas, raising the potential for a new north-south economic polarization whose political implications are yet to be fully clear. This raises challenges to the more traditional stateside Puerto Rican political and economic narratives as a Northeast urban population loyal to the Democratic Party and New Deal policies.
Third, in Puerto Rico the traditional status-based colonial political party system has become increasingly difficult to manage, with political deadlock among the parties and the loss of the tax incentives that formerly attracted U.S. capital, along with ineffective economic management and multiple corruption scandals. With the U.S. Congress now considering proposals for resolving Puerto Rico’s status in the midst of a presidential election, this polarization will only intensify.
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Although Puerto Ricans have been migrating to the United States since the mid-1800s, it wasn’t until after World War II that the size of this migration became enormous and subject to efforts to manage it from both the colony and the metropolis. The out-migration from Puerto Rico as an integral part of its economic development planning, which was based on neo-Malthusian principles, led in 1948 to the establishment of New York City’s Migration Division of Puerto Rico’s Department of Labor. This became the mechanism by which the government of Puerto Rico tried to steer Puerto Rican labor flows and negotiate on workers’ behalf with U.S. local, state, and federal authorities. In 1986, this division, which now had offices in several states, was seen as a way to create a U.S. Israeli lobby–type operation, and the then pro-commonwealth governor elevated it to the status of the cabinet-level Department of Puerto Rican Affairs in the United States. This was short-lived when the statehood party candidate was elected to the governorship in 1992, which resulted in the new department being replaced by a lobbying operation called the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA).
Depending on which political party was in power, this new office’s relationship to the stateside Puerto Rican community changed in dramatic ways. Generally similar in function to foreign consulates, PRFAA differs in technically being a part of the U.S. government and in representing people who are all already U.S. citizens. Under the commonwealth party, this office collaborated closely with the stateside Puerto Rican political leadership, but under the statehood party the relationship was less friendly and often hostile. With the current divided government, the pro-commonwealth governor, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, has turned the office into a Washington, D.C.–focused lobbying and public relations operation that has made its relationship to the stateside Puerto Rican community focused on narrowly partisan concerns. Pressure to change the mission of this agency in this way came in large part because the divided government in Puerto Rico replicated itself in Washington, D.C., where Resident Commissioner Fortuño is a pro-statehood Republican, while the governor is pro-commonwealth and identified with the Democratic Party.
One reason for this uncertainty about how Puerto Rico political elites related to the stateside Puerto Rican community was the lack of information about the political status preferences of the diaspora. This became a practical political problem for these colonial politicians as the stateside population grew larger and more politically engaged and began in the mid-1960s to demand a voice in determining Puerto Rico’s future status. After a 1967 plebiscite held on the island, the stateside community demanded, with increasing intensity, the right to participate in these votes. Today, the major bills before Congress make some provisions for the participation of the stateside Puerto Rican community to directly participate in this status-definition process.
But knowledge on how stateside Puerto Ricans would vote on the future political status of Puerto Rico remains a problem because they have not been recently polled on this issue, despite extensive polling on this status issue in Puerto Rico. The most reliable survey conducted on the subject was the Latino National Political Survey (LNPS), conducted in 1989–90.It found that more than two thirds (69%) of stateside Puerto Ricans supported commonwealth status. But since then there have been major changes in the social, geographic, and political composition of this community, it is not at all clear what its status preferences are today. One further complication is that most stateside Puerto Rican leaders and activists support independence. In a national Web survey conducted of this elite group in 2006, it was found that 45% supported independence, while in the 1989–90 LNPS, less than 4% of stateside Puerto Rican adults did. It is doubtful that there has been a large pro-independence surge in the stateside community since then and more likely that pro-statehood sentiment has grown, as has been the case in Puerto Rico. The status preferences of the stateside community may now be similar to those of Puerto Rico, but this is only speculation.
The pro-independence preference of a plurality of the stateside leadership and activists has complicated the process in interesting ways. This has made the stateside Puerto Rican more open to controversial issues like freeing the Puerto Rican political prisoners and supporting the ouster of the U.S. Navy from Vieques. It has also made it easier for the pro-commonwealth party to deal politically with them, while the pro-statehood party finds itself at odds with this large sector of the stateside Puerto Rican political leadership. This is a characteristic of the politics of the diaspora community’s experience that has been little studied or understood, but which continues to have a major impact on its relationship to the politics of its homeland.
The role of the stateside Puerto Rican community in determining the future political status of Puerto Rico becomes further complicated by new socioeconomic changes and the changing narrative of race in the United States. Stateside Puerto Ricans, once the poster children for the urban underclass, have developed a more layered economic reality over the last couple of decades. Whereas once the major policy agenda for the stateside leadership was the issue of persistent poverty, there are now more voices joining the U.S. left in focusing the political agenda on the plight of the middle class. But while the community’s poverty rate has dropped significantly over the last 30 years, in 2005 it stood at 23%, compared with 8% for non-Latino whites (for further comparison, in 2006, the poverty rate in Puerto Rico stood at an appalling 45%).
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While experiencing a persistent high poverty rate, the stateside Puerto Rican community finds itself challenged to reframe its agenda in ways that may undermine its economic base. Poverty remains a serious problem in the stateside communities of the Northeast and Midwest, but less of a problem in the newer ones in the South and Southwest. How can the stateside Puerto Rican community recast its policy priorities as it also experiences such a potential economic polarization along regional lines? And how will this affect its relationship to the politics of Puerto Rico and the status question?
The stateside Puerto Rican community has been formally a part of the United States since the annexation of Puerto Rico in 1898 and as U.S. citizens since the 1917 Jones Act, and has even had a presence within the states well before then. But along with second- and later-generation Latinos, Puerto Rican issues have been made less visible by the growing attention to the controversial problem of immigration. Although Puerto Ricans have been negatively impacted by the racist backlash from this immigration debate, policy makers at all levels of government and in the private sector have difficulty focusing on the specificities of the Puerto Rican condition and how it differs from those of new immigrants and noncitizens.
With its policy and political agendas at one of those messy crossroads, it is not particularly clear which road the stateside Puerto Rican community will be taking, now that the issue of its formal participation in resolving the status issue is no longer a matter of debate. But whether the diaspora will come down on the side of statehood, commonwealth, or associated republic is not at all clear. Independence? Well, that’s another story about the failure of a movement and the power of the United States’ new imperialism.” Angelo Falcon, “The Diaspora Factor: Stateside Baricuas and the Future of Puerto Rico;” North American Conference on Latin America, NACLA Report on the Americas, 2007. https://ofamerica.wordpress.com/tag/puerto-rican-statehood/