Critical Technology Studies and Artificial Intelligence Initiatives in the Humanities Center

blue background with white lines that have circles on the connections with text that reads Technology and Humanities

Can artificial intelligence help us achieve a better future? But first, how do we define a better future? And could AI undermine us as future planners and decision makers? The Humanities Center has been exploring these types of concerns as part of its ongoing investigation of the human dimension of new technologies.

In Spring 2020, the Humanities Center formed a reading group with faculty from multiple disciplines and schools across the university. The group convened this fall to discuss foundational issues behind the development of artificial intelligence, what it means to think, and what distinguishes human thought from machine intelligence. On the reading group syllabus: Pamela McCorduck’s  Machines Who Think; Descartes’s Discourse on the Method and La Mettrie’s response Man a Machine; Alan Turing’s “Computing Machinery and Intelligence” and the debate surrounding the famous Turing Test. The group will continue its discussion with a focus on literary and filmic representations of AI, from Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me to the “Be Right Back” episode from the popular science-fiction series Black Mirror,  and concerns that arise in the application of machine intelligence, such as bias and discrimination.

In April and May 2021, the Humanities Center will host a virtual “AI and the Humanities Lecture Series” featuring international experts in social and ethical concerns around AI and data science. Mark Coeckelbergh, PhD from the University of Vienna will launch the series with a talk entitled “Ethics of AI: Narratives and Responsibility.” Carissa Véliz, PhD from the University of Oxford and author of Privacy Is Power will ask “Should we end the data economy?” Sylvester A. Johnson, Phd from Virginia Tech will speak on concerns regarding social aspects of AI, and the series will conclude with a talk by Patricia Churchland, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, on AI and the mind.

The Humanities Center invites faculty as well as graduate and undergraduate students from across the university to participate in programming including workshops, events, and seminars around issues such as AI and privacy, bias, creativity, and the nature of thought. 

Learn more by visiting the Humanities Center website on technology and humanities.