Computational thinking comprises a set of processes used to model complex real-world problems, and to solve them by designing algorithms for a human or computer to execute. Beyond the confines of programming, these processes are also used by engineers and social scientists when modelling phenomena. But because we are often too caught up with solving problems, we rarely take a step back to reflect and question the limits and weaknesses behind these tools. In this talk, Mr. Sim would like to put these processes to the question and pay special attention to the two-step “translational” processes of modelling and algorithm design. By bringing these questioning processes into focus, he wishes to demonstrate how we unconsciously embed our own human subjectivity, with all its ignorance and biases, into the models and algorithms we create, and how these “translations” bring about distortions that have the potential to result in socio-ethical problems when we implement these solutions back in the real world.

Speaker’s Bio

Jonathan Y. H. Sim is a Teaching Assistant at the National University of Singapore. He does research in classical Chinese philosophy and agent-based modelling, and he teaches undergraduate classes on “Computational Thinking” and “Asking Questions” (a module dedicated to questioning the various disciplinary questioning processes in order to raise students’ metacognitive abilities). Mr. Sim has a special interest in crossing beyond disciplinary boundaries in the search for fascinating new insights to age-old problems. For his knowledge of philosophy across a spectrum of issues, he has been invited to discuss philosophical issues about technology and society in panel discussions for the Financial Times, Channel NewsAsia, and the Institute of Asian Consumer Insight. He recently edited a book on the Grand Challenges for Science in the 21st Century, (New Jersey: World Scientific, 2018) featuring insights from some of the top scientists around the world.