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Technology and Religion in Ancient Greece and Rome  

Tatiana Bur

Coupling together “technology” and “religion” might, to the modern mind, sound rather antithetical. The former, as we know it, is based in scientific knowledge and produces tangible results; the latter is phenomenological and spiritual. Yet this does not do justice to the full character of ancient science, or of ancient religion. Technologies in Greco-Roman antiquity could, and did, help create and sustain a sense of the divine, whether this was in the context of sanctuary space, or as part of religious occasions or rituals, for example. The kinds of evidence available to unearth the realities of the relation between technology and religion in ancient Greece and Rome span literature, material culture, and, importantly, ancient technical manuals. This final genre tends not to be as familiar to students of the Greco-Roman world in general and especially to students of ancient religion. Yet by combining these dry, and at times abstruse, texts with anecdotal evidence, technical realities and issues of viewership which surround the use of technology in ancient religious contexts can be better understood. One of the more familiar instances of religious technologies from ancient Greece is that of the theatrical crane (mēchanē). There, epiphanies of gods were fabricated using a conspicuous mechanical construction which speaks to the fundamentally mediated nature of ancient epiphany. The sense of sacred presence within ancient temples in the Greco-Roman world was enhanced using various technical methods including catoptrics—the science of reflection. Religious processions in antiquity involved parading a vast array of objects through the cityscape and technologies of automation began, in the Hellenistic period onward, to feature as part of this conspicuous display of the marvelous. Various other rituals which formed the very basis of Greek religious life, such as divination and dedication, relied on technical, including mechanical, expertise to create, enhance, or authenticate connection with the divine. Traces of the intersection between religion and technology in Greco-Roman antiquity can be found not only from the Classical institution of the theater but even earlier, including in the Homeric epics. Yet the formalization of the discipline of mechanics in the Hellenistic period gave new shape and vigor to the relation between religion and technology. Subsequently, the Roman period saw increased meta-discourse on the phenomenon, especially thanks to the culturally vibrant “Second Sophistic,” as well as the rise of Christianity, where the word (logos) of god was privileged above anything material.


Agent-Based Modeling of Flood Insurance Futures  

Linda Geaves

Agent-based models have facilitated greater understanding of flood insurance futures, and will continue to advance this field as modeling technology develops further. As the pressures of climate-change increase and global populations grow, the insurance industry will be required to adapt to a less predictable operating environment. Complicating the future of flood insurance is the role flood insurance plays within a state, as well as how insurers impact the interests of other stakeholders, such as mortgage providers, property developers, and householders. As such, flood insurance is inextricably linked with the politics, economy, and social welfare of a state, and can be considered as part of a complex system of changing environments and diverse stakeholders. Agent-based models are capable of modeling complex systems, and, as such, have utility for flood insurance systems. These models can be considered as a platform in which the actions of autonomous agents, both individuals and collectives, are simulated. Cellular automata are the lowest level of an agent-based model and are discrete and abstract computational systems. These automata, which operate within a local and/or universal environment, can be programmed with characteristics of stakeholders and can act independently or interact collectively. Due to this, agent-based models can capture the complexities of a multi-stakeholder environment displaying diversity of behavior and, concurrently, can cater for the changing flood environment. Agent-based models of flood insurance futures have primarily been developed for predictive purposes, such as understanding the impact of introductions of policy instruments. However, the ways in which these situations have been approached by researchers have varied; some have focused on recreating consumer behavior and psychology, while others have sought to recreate agent interactions within a flood environment. The opportunities for agent-based models are likely to become more pronounced as online data becomes more readily available and artificial intelligence technology supports model development.


Computational Phonology  

Jane Chandlee and Jeffrey Heinz

Computational phonology studies the nature of the computations necessary and sufficient for characterizing phonological knowledge. As a field it is informed by the theories of computation and phonology. The computational nature of phonological knowledge is important because at a fundamental level it is about the psychological nature of memory as it pertains to phonological knowledge. Different types of phonological knowledge can be characterized as computational problems, and the solutions to these problems reveal their computational nature. In contrast to syntactic knowledge, there is clear evidence that phonological knowledge is computationally bounded to the so-called regular classes of sets and relations. These classes have multiple mathematical characterizations in terms of logic, automata, and algebra with significant implications for the nature of memory. In fact, there is evidence that phonological knowledge is bounded by particular subregular classes, with more restrictive logical, automata-theoretic, and algebraic characterizations, and thus by weaker models of memory.