Overview

Social Robot Futures is part of a five-year research project, led by Dr. Teresa Heffernan, called “Where Science Meets Fiction: Social Robots and the Ethical Imagination.” Funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHCR), the project explores the ethical and existential questions that emerge from the entanglement of the science and the fiction of robotics/AI. It considers why science uses fiction even as it marginalizes the literary imagination in discussions of a technological future, why the animal is so often problematically collapsed with the machine, and how the categories and narratives about robots and animals differently produce the human. The primary objective of the project is to produce a book-length interdisciplinary study that take seriously the borders between fiction, science, and ethics by putting these fields in dialogue with one another. The fieldwork component of the study entails meeting designers of robotics/AI to trace where fictional models come into play in their work, why scientists invoke them, and where fictional narratives and scientific practices intersect, differ, breakdown, and conflict. As a component of the project, Social Robot Futures is intended to provide an interdisciplinary source of news, research and commentary associated with robotics/AI. The site also serves as an archive for the interviews, conference papers and published work associated with the project.

Bios

Teresa Heffernan is Professor of English at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She is author of Post-Apocalyptic Culture: Modernism, Postmodernism, and the Twentieth-Century Novel (University of Toronto Press, 2008) and Veiled Figures: Women, Modernity, and the Spectres of Orientalism (University of Toronto Press, 2016). She is co-editor (with Daniel O’Quinn) of a critical edition of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s The Turkish Embassy Letters (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2012). She is series editor, with Reina Lewis, of Cultures in Dialogue (Website: http://culturesindialogue.com/main/home, developed with SSHRC research funding). She is co-editor (with Jill Didur) of a special issue of Cultural Studies entitled “Revisiting the Subaltern in the New Empire” and of a special issue of Cultural Critique (with Jill Didur and Bart Simon) on “Posthumanism.” Her articles have appeared in journals such as Studies in the Novel, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Arab Journal for the Humanities, Subject Matters, Canadian Literature, and Twentieth Century Literature.

Karen Asp is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, Toronto, where she is focusing on capitalist accumulation, technocracy and ecological degradation in the so-called “Anthropocene Era.” She has a BA in politics and two Masters degrees, in geography and in social and political thought (SPT). She is Social Robot Future’s web designer/manager, and occasional blogger.

Articles, Chapters and Books

Heffernan, Teresa, editor. Cyborg Futures: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming.

Heffernan, Teresa. “Fiction Meets Science: Ex Machina, Artificial Intelligence and the
Robotics Industry.” Cyborg Futures: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, edited by Teresa Heffernan, Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming.

Heffernan, Teresa. “A.I. Artificial Intelligence: Science, Fiction and Fairy Tales.” English Studies in Africa 61, 1, 2018, 10-15. https://doi.org/10.1080/00138398.2018.1512192.

Heffernan, Teresa. “The Post-Apocalyptic Imaginary: Science, Fiction, and the Death Drive.” English Studies in Africa 58, 1, 2015, 66-79. Special Issue. https://doi.org/10.1080/00138398.2015.1083198

Asp, Karen. “A.I., Ecology and Existential Risk: A Critique.” Cyborg Futures: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, edited by Teresa Heffernan, Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming.

Keynotes, Invited Talks, and Conferences

Heffernan, T. Panel participant in “The Social Implications of Artificial Intelligence.” 2018 Big Thinking Panel. Dalhousie University. November 14, 2018. Invited.

Heffernan, T. “Fiction Meets Science: Ex Machina, Artificial Intelligence and the Robotics Industry.” Paper presented at Hal-Con 2018. October 26, 2018. Invited.

Heffernan, T. “Fiction Writes Back: The 2045 Initiative, Zero K, and the Immortality Industry.” Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities Lecture. May 18, 2018. Invited.

Heffernan, T. “AI and Robotics: Where Fiction and the Industry Intersect.” Paper presented at Responsible Robots: Shaping Our Future With Robotics. Lorentz Center, Leiden, the Netherlands. February 19 – 23, 2018. Invited.

Heffernan, T. “Where Science Meets Fiction: Concerns About the Artificial Intelligence Industry.” Respondent to public lecture by Stan Matwin “Artificial Intelligence: Successes and Challenges.” Automatons: From Ovid to AI. King’s College Public Lecture Series 2018. University of King’s College, Halifax, NS. February 14, 2018. Invited. Video.

Heffernan, T. “Imagining Automatons: Images of Robots in Fiction and Science.” Public lecture presented at Automatons: From Ovid to AI. King’s College Public Lecture Series 2018. January 17, 2018. Video.

Heffernan, T. Panel participant in “Public Debate: AI/Robots and Our Future.”  Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia. October 19, 2017. Invited. Video.

Heffernan, T. “Which is the Man and Which is the Monster?  Frankenstein, Ex Machina and Twenty-first Century Technoculture.” Paper presented at Film Adaptation: Theory, Practices, Reception. Thessaloniki, Greece. May 25-27, 2017.

Asp, K. “Unnatural Powers: AI, Ecology and the ‘Risks’ of Progress.” Paper presented at Cyborg Futures Workshop. Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS. March 31-April 1, 2017.

Heffernan, T. “Coding Life: Frankenstein, Monsters and Robots.” Bristol Festival of Ideas, April 2016. Invited.

Heffernan, T. “Robot Capital, Animals, and Rights Discourse.” Digital Cultures, University of the West of England, April 2016. Invited.

Heffernan, T. “From Petman to Pepper: Robot Emotions and the Deadly Logic of Cuteness.”  The Aesthetics and Affects of Cuteness Conference. University of Amsterdam, October, 2015. Keynote.

Heffernan, T. “Science, Fiction, and the Death Drive.” End Times Colloquium, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, July 2014. Keynote.

Heffernan, T. “Careless Rights: Humans, Animals, Robots.” Fictions of Threat Workshop, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, July 2014. Keynote.

Heffernan, T. “Robot Capital, Commodity Fetishism, and Rights Discourse.” Mosaic: A Matter of Life/death, University of Manitoba Winnipeg, October, 2014.

Asp, K. “Mortal Choices: Instrumentality and Freedom in Harraway’s Companion Species Model.” Mosaic: A Matter of Life/death, University of Manitoba Winnipeg, October, 2014.