Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

SDG 12 aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Browse books and journal articles relating to this SDG below and find out more on the UN Sustainable Development Goals website.
 

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

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Drawing together the threads of the book, this chapter argues that algorithmic thinking can only be understood through an analysis of its tensions. It looks at the different forces and tensions explored throughout the book to build upon this central argument. In addition, the chapter then turns to Michel Foucault’s concept of the ‘will to know’, arguing that what we are now seeing is a mutation of this into a desire or will to automate.

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This chapters explores the pushing back of the boundaries of the known and the knowable. Taking Katherine Hayle’s concept of the ‘cognizer’, the chapter looks at how super cognizers are merging that act as bridges into an algorithmic new life. The chapter then develops a series of features of these super cognizers and uses these to think about the tensions created and agency meshes into the form of new forms of knowing. The chapter uses this central concept to think about the tension created by the stretching of the known.

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Beginning by thinking about the broader shifts towards algorithmic processes and systems, this chapter reflects on the core issues discussed in the book. In particular, it develops the idea of algorithmic thinking and looks at how this might be contextualized. The chapter introduces the idea of the ‘algorithmic new life’ and how this conception of the changes algorithms will bring is crucial to future developments. The chapter closes by looking at the importance of tensions in understanding algorithms and provides an outline of the two key tensions that structure the book’s content.

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Exploring the tensions that are created as different forms of agency mesh, this chapter looks at where the human actor is reintegrated into algorithmic thinking. Using a case study of a large risk-management system, it looks directly at how the boundaries around the acceptability of automation are managed. The chapter argues that notions of overstepping and of too much automation are embedded into understandings of these limits. The chapter looks at how human agency is circumscribed within algorithmic thinking, and how limits are boundaries are managed and breached in the expansion of algorithmic systems.

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Algorithmic thinking creates both new knowns and new unknowns. This chapter reflects on the tension generated by unknowability. Drawing on Georges Bataille’s concept of ‘nonknowledge’, the chapter examines the historical development of advancing neural network technologies. The chapter argues that the presence of nonknowledge is now pursued in the advancement of these forms of automation and AI. It closes by reflecting on what the presence of nonknowledge might mean for the development of algorithmic thinking and how we can identify a suspension knowing that operates in these systems.

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Taking case studies of the art market and the smart home, this chapter looks at the sidelining of the human within algorithmic systems. Focusing on the application of blockchain, the chapter looks at the vulnerabilities within systems and how humans are perceived to represent weak points within data systems. The chapter argues that a posthuman security is emerging, in which the human is bypassed in order to produce images of a secure society.

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Automation, Intelligence and the Politics of Knowing
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We are living in algorithmic times.

From machine learning and artificial intelligence to blockchain or simpler news-feed filtering, automated systems can transform the social world in ways that are just starting to be imagined.

Redefining these emergent technologies as the new systems of knowing, pioneering scholar David Beer examines the acute tensions they create and how they are changing what is known and what is knowable. Drawing on cases ranging from the art market and the smart home through to financial tech, AI patents and neural networks, he develops key concepts for understanding the framing, envisioning and implementation of algorithms.

This book will be of interest to anyone who is concerned with the rise of algorithmic thinking and the way it permeates society.

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The Independent Review of England’s agri-food systems, commonly known as the National Food Strategy (NFS), was commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in 2019. The NFS report, published in two stages in 2020 and 2021, outlines a range of interventions and policy proposals to achieve better agri-food outcomes in terms of public health and environmental sustainability. This commentary focuses on the challenges associated with incorporating a diversity of voices within the NFS’s evidence base. To achieve this, the NFS mobilised a series of public dialogue events to capture lay perspectives. Led by professional facilitators, these events sought to open a deliberative space to explore the workings of agri-food systems, leading to the publication of a public engagement report in late 2021. While diverse views were recorded, the report found ‘a strong appetite for change’ among the participants, eager to address the problems associated with current agri-food systems. In commenting on the dialogue process, we identify three distinct problematics which arise from the NFS’s public engagement strategy. Firstly, we consider the array of subject positions at play in the report. Secondly, we discuss the ‘epistemologies of engagement’, reflecting on the different forms of knowledge that are enrolled through the process of public engagement. Thirdly, we consider the under-acknowledged politics that are at play in these kinds of public engagement exercises and the limits of ‘co-production’ as a methodological principle. We conclude by drawing out the wider (national and international) implications of this particular form of public engagement which aims to incorporate lay perspectives into policy development processes.

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In this article, I argue that care is a useful tool to think about consumption as embedded in social relations within and outside the market, and draw the consequences for moving towards sustainable lifestyles. To do so, I engage in a review of the literature that brings together consumption and care in its various forms. I review three main bodies of work: the literature on consumption that links care to consumer behaviour and consumption practices; the work addressing the commodifications of care and how it feeds in the neoliberal organisation of society; and the literature on climate change and the development of sustainable lifestyles. I close with a reflection on some lessons of care for academic researchers studying sustainability, consumption and a transition towards more sustainable and just societies.

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Laurence Godin’s () piece is a very welcome and commendable attempt to provide a broader synthetisation of the current literature on care and consumption, and to generate some critical insights for future work in this area. I am drawing on Godin’s article to make some further observations. These are three-fold, pertaining to our current understandings of care, markets and consumption respectively.

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