Ekaterina Babintseva

Hixon-Riggs Early Career Fellow in Science and Technology Studies

Ekaterina Babintseva is a historian of science and technology whose work examines the history of computing and psychology in the twentieth century. She received her PhD in 2020 from the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She is interested in the ways mid-century psychologists mobilized computing and mathematical methods of inquiry to describe, model and simulate human cognition. She is currently working on a book manuscript, which argues that in the 1960s-1970s, despite ideological and political differences, the United States and the Soviet Union came to view the human mind as an important resource for their economies. Her book examines how psychologists in both countries sought to algorithmically model the learning mind and build special teaching computers that would streamline how humans acquire new knowledge and solve problems. She demonstrates that in doing so, Soviet and American scientists circulated the knowledge about human minds and computers across the Iron Curtain.

As a teacher, Babintseva strives to help students develop a critical perspective on the role of contemporary digital technology in our society. Using historical, sociological, and anthropological perspectives, she encourages students to ask questions about racial, gender and class ramifications of computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and data technologies. Who benefits from contemporary data collection? Historically, whose data has been mostly targeted? What kind of intelligence have AI projects historically imitated? What are the social and ethical consequences of introducing AI into contemporary governance? She believes that answering these questions can help students become responsible developers and consumers of digital technology.

Courses Taught

STS 179K HM Data and Society/Special Topics: Science, Technology, Society