Archive for the ‘Robots’ Category

Watch Despina Kakoudaki’s fascinating talk on how “artificial people” in fiction and film from Frankenstein through to Ex Machina and Westworld serve as foils for examining our “human” emotions, traumas, rights and identities. Dr. Kakoudaki’s public lecture, titled “Unmaking People: The Politics of Negation from Frankenstein to Westworld,” was delivered on March 29th, 2018 at the University of King’s College, Halifax.

You can also listen to Dr. Kakoudaki talk with Alex Mason, producer of the CBC radio show Mainstreet, in an interview about “what fiction teaches us about our creations, our anxieties and ourselves.”

Dr. Kakoudaki is Professor of Literature and Director of the Humanities Lab at American University (Washington, DC) and she is author of Anatomy of a Robot: Literature, Cinema, and the Cultural Work of Artificial People (2014).

 

 

 

StephanieDickDr. Stephanie Dick (Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania) is scheduled to give a public lecture this Wednesday, April 4th at 7 pm on the changing notion of “the human” in artificial intelligence research.

Title: Making Up Minds: Thinking With, About and For Humans

Abstract: The notion of the “human” has changed in Artificial Intelligence research. Where “traditional” A.I. sought to explicitly reproduce human faculties in machines, today any resemblance is incidental to the primary goal of making good predictions or solving hard problems.

Time and Place: 7:00 pm, Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at Alumni Hall, University of King’s College, Halifax.

For more information: Automatons: From Ovid to AI

Steph Dick Poster PRINT-min

 

kakoudaki_picture-1024x731Dr. Despina Kakoudaki, Professor of Literature and Director of the Humanities Lab at American University (Washington, DC), will give a public lecture this THURSDAY, 7:00 pm, March 29th at Alumni Hall, King’s College. Her talk is titled, “Unmaking People: The Politics of Negation from Frankenstein to Westworld.”

Abstract: Drawing on the novel and film versions of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and contemporary science fiction such as Ex Machina and Westworld, Dr. Kakoudaki explores the idea and treatment of the artificial person in a human world. In particular, she’ll look at how mechanical or constructed people are often set up as foils to humans as a way of examining our emotions, traumas, rights and identities.

Dr. Kakoudaki will also give a short introduction to the special performance of “Drums at Organs: or, The Modern Frankenstein” at the Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre, on Wednesday, March 28th at 7:00pm.

kakoudaki_cover_comp4.jpgDr. Kakoudaki (PhD, Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley) is author of Anatomy of a Robot: Literature, Cinema, and the Cultural Work of Artificial People (2014), which traces the history and cultural function of constructed people and animated objects in literature and film. She has also written on robots and cyborgs, race and melodrama in action and disaster films, body transformation and technology in early film, the political role of the pin-up in World War II, and the representation of the archive in postmodern fiction.

 

Un policy brief 1Killer robots. Slaughterbots. Lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS).  How are they changing international norms of warfare, peace and security? What does it mean for us? How concerned should we be?

These questions are the subject of a debate between Dr. Noel Sharkey, professor of A.I. and robotics (Sheffield), renowned BBC commentator on robotics and A.I., and Chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, and Dr. Duncan MacIntosh,  professor of philosophy at Dalhousie University.

When: 7:00 pm, Wednesday, March 21st, 2018

Where: The Scotia Bank Auditorium (Sobey Business School building, Saint Mary’s University).

This public event is part of the “Automatons! From Ovid to AI” King’s College lecture series. It is co-sponsored by Saint Mary’s University and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affair.

POSTER War in the Age of Intell Machines A Deabte (Feb 28)

 

 

 

Don’t miss this debate!

Dr. Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, renowned BBC commentator on robotics and A.I., and the Chair of the “International Committee for Robot Arms Control”, will debate Dalhousie’s Duncan MacIntosh on the nature, ethics and future of “Autonomous Weapons and War in the Age of Intelligent Machines”.

The public event is co-sponsored by Saint Mary’s University and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs and will be taking place in  7:00pm, Wednesday, March 21st.

Simon talk 2As part of the Automatons public lecture series, Dr. Simon Kow will give a talk on “Asian Robots and Orientalism” this Wednesday (7:00 pm, March 7th) at Alumni Hall, King’s College (Halifax).

Abstract: “This talk examines aspects of the history of East Asian robots and Orientalism from the early modern period to the present, including the image of the automaton in western Orientalist views of Asian societies, the influences  of Asian and especially Japanese cultural traditions on Asian approaches to robots, and ways in which certain depictions of robots in contemporary Japanese popular culture can be interpreted in terms of a counter-Orientalist narrative on technology.”

For more information go to the Automatons Lecture Series.

Simon talk 1

Dawn talk 3What do puppeteers mean when they speak about bringing a puppet ‘to life’? What is the difference between a prop and a puppet? Why do these questions matter not only in the creative arts but also in the study of how artificial intelligence and automatons are imagined? Dr. Dawn Brandes (Fountain School of Performing Arts and Halifax Humanities) will be exploring these questions in her talk this Wednesday, Feb 28th, 7:00pm at Alumni Hall, King’s College, Halifax. This talk is part of the public lecture series “Automatons: From Ovid to AI.” For information go to: Automatons Lecture Series.

 

Sophia UN 2

Divergent perspectives on recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics were evident at a public lecture hosted last week (Feb 14, 2018) at the University of King’s College (Halifax). The keynote speaker, Stan Matwin, presented a nuanced, but largely optimistic view of where research in AI is heading, and the value that advances like “deep learning” promise for society. Following Dr. Matwin’s talk, Teresa Heffernan offered some critical commentary, emphasizing how deceptive claims were being used to promote initiatives in the industry, feeding on and reinforcing collective fantasies and delusional thoughts about, for example, the “aliveness” of robots.

Deep learning

“Deep learning” process

Dr. Matwin (Dalhousie University, Canada Research Chair in Visual Textual Analytics), summarized the history of AI and characterized advances in the field since the advent of “deep learning.” He explained how “classical” machine learning depended on human labour for the provision of “representations” and “examples” comprising the “knowledge” being imparted to the “artificial” system. In contrast, Dr. Matwin showed, the emerging field of “deep learning” requires human effort in the compilation of “examples” only; the machine “learns” what the examples represent by “finding non-linear relationships between” them. Moreover, according to Dr. Matwin, 2017 saw the development of a self-training chess playing program (AlphaZero) able to learn the game without humans supplying either “representations” or “examples.” Based on the powers exhibited by “deep learning” systems, Dr. Matwin predicted that significant social changes were on the horizon, such as white-collar job loss. Nonetheless he averred that the ubiquity of high-tech machines like smart phones was indicative of the inevitability of technological progress in general, and of the benefits of AI in particular.

Dr. Heffernan, professor of English at Saint Mary’s University and director of the Social Robot Futures Project, introduced her talk by showing a segment from the Tonight Show (Jimmy Fallon) in which the CEO of Hanson Robotics (David Hanson) affirmed that his robot “Sophia” was “basically alive.”

 

Dr. Heffernan then argued that “Sophia” was, in fact, merely a “chatbot” in a robotic body: it functions by reacting to a user’s statements, queries and expressions with prewritten scripts, and/or information gathered from the internet. The user’s spoken statements are transcribed into text that is then matched with automated replies. Dr. Heffernan presented some of the open source code used in programming Sophia’s chatbot capabilities. In sum, she argued with reference to CEO Hanson’s performance on the Tonight Show, that “what you are watching is a showman and an impressive spectacle.”

M-x doctor mode, an Eliza clone running in GNU Emacs (Wikipedia)

Dr. Heffernan explained how the scientist who invented the “chatbot” concept in the 1960s, Joseph Weisenbaum, had since become a critic of the industry. In a famous experiment, he programmed the chatbot “Eliza” with a dialogic model based in psychotherapy — giving rise to the so-called “DOCTOR” script. Weisenbaum noticed that although users fully understood how the DOCTOR-scripted chatbot worked, which was to respond with stock phrases or pick up on the last statement the subject made, they nevertheless divulged intimate personal details and attributed feelings to it. Regarding this phenomenon, Dr. Heffernan quoted Weisenbaum’s own reflections: “What I had not realized is that extremely short exposures to a relatively simple computer program could induce powerful delusional thinking in quite normal people.”  In a documentary called Plug and Pray Weizenbaum expressed his concern about the development of this technology given people’s susceptibility to being manipulated.

Nothwithstanding Weisenbaum’s public statements on these issues, according to Dr. Heffernan, contemporary “marketers of social robots like Sophia, which are now enhanced by faster computer processors and access to big data sets, encourage this delusional thinking instead of exposing it.”

Stan Matwin and Teresa Heffernan

Stan Matwin and Teresa Heffernan, Feb 14, 2018

You can watch Dr. Heffernan’s 15 minute talk, “Concerns About the Artificial Intelligence Industry,” below. More information about the “Automatons” lecture series at King’s College can be found here.

 

By Karen Asp (Feb 23, 2018)