Archive for the ‘Social Science’ Category

Repost of book review by Sue Smith (BMJ Medical Humanities 25/06/2019)

Enchanting“Enchanting Robots: Intimacy, Magic, and Technology is part of the book series, Social and Cultural Studies of Robots and AI, edited by Kathleen Richardson, Cathrine Hasse and Teresa Heffernan, and is written by Polish academic, Maciej Musiał. In Enchanting Robots Musiał discusses ‘magic’ and ‘magical thinking’ in order to critically assess humanity’s current and projected future relationship with newly emerging robot technology.  In brief, ‘magical thinking’ is the ability of humans to imaginatively confer human qualities onto ‘others,’ both animate and inanimate, creating meaningful and intimate connections with the non-human world.  It is through the theoretical lens of ‘magical thinking,’ which Musiał describes as an ongoing historical human process of enchantment, disenchantment and re-enchantment in pre-modern, modern and postmodern societies, that Enchanting Robots explores and examines humanity’s desire to re-enact personal moments of  ‘magic’ with the non-human ‘other’.  According to Musiał, understanding ‘magical thinking’ is of value because it helps explain how humans across differing cultures and time periods productively seek and create authentic moments of novelty and self worth that is of psychological benefit to both the individual and the wider community.  In particular, in the current climate of robot technology, which is creating a generation of love robots, sex robots and care robots in order to facilitate and promote new human relations with technology, Musiał argues that ‘magical thinking’ in today’s western world demands careful consideration for establishing important ethical foundations for the use and acceptance of non-human partners and carers in medicine and social care and across society in general.”

“Sequentially, Enchanting Robots consists of an ‘Introduction’ and four chapters starting with chapter 2, ‘Robots Enchanting Humans’; chapter 3, ‘Humans Enchanting Robots’; chapter 4, ‘Disenchanting and Re-Enchanting in Modernity’; and finally chapter 5, ‘In Lieu of a Conclusion: Where Will We Go from Here?’…”  Click here to continue reading.

Full book review posted at BMJ Medical Humanities Blog June 25, 2019

EnchantingJust out in the Palgrave book series called Social and Cultural Studies of Robots and AI, which I co-edit with Kathleen Richardson and Cathrine Hasse:

Enchanting Robots: Intimacy, Magic, and Technology  By Maciej Musiał

“This book argues that robots are enchanting humans (as potential intimate partners), because humans are enchanting robots (by performing magical thinking), and that these processes are a part of a significant re-enchantment of the “modern” world. As a foundation, the author examines arguments for and against intimate relationships with robots, particularly sex robots and care robots. Moreover, the book provides a consideration of human-robot interactions and philosophical reflections about robots through the lens of magic and magical thinking as well as theoretical and practical re-evaluations of their status and presence. Furthermore, the author discusses the abovementioned issues in the context of disenchantment and re-enchantment of the world, characterizing modernity as a coexistence of these two processes. The book closes with a consideration of future scenarios regarding the meaning of life in the age of rampant automation and the possibility that designing robots becomes a sort of new eugenics as a consequence of recognizing robots as persons.”

keasp photo Big Think Nov14,2018The Big Thinking public panel on the social implications of AI, held at the Halifax Public Library on November 14, was a lively and well attended event. The discussants included Teresa Heffernan, Ian Kerr, Fuyuki Kurasawa and Duncan MacIntosh, with Howard Ramos (Dalhousie) as moderator.  Courtney Law provides a sense of the event here, noting for example that Teresa Heffernan “reminded the audience that AI and humans are inextricably linked because AI is built on data created by humans” and that “we sometimes assume ‘fauxtonomy’ when it comes to AI, attributing more complexity to machinery than it is due because we are influenced by fictional representations.” The event was sponsored by Dalhousie University, the Federation of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSHRC), and the Halifax Public Library.

SSHRC has published a video recording of the entire event that you can view below or access here.

llwlYou are invited to join Teresa Heffernan (Saint Mary’s University), Ian Kerr (U of Ottawa), Fuyuki Kurasawa (York U) and Duncan MacIntosh (Dalhousie) for a panel discussion on ‘the potential social impacts of artificial intelligence and the role humanities and social sciences will play in identifying the legal, ethical and policy issues we should start considering today.’

Where: Paul O’Regan Hall, Halifax Public Library Central

When: Wednesday, November 14, 2018. 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

Moderated  by Gabriel Miller, Executive Director, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

The event is sponsored by Dalhousie University (Offices of the President and the Vice-President Research, plus the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, Computer Science, Law, and Management), the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Halifax Public Libraries.

The event will be free and open to the public with a reception to follow.

Questions? Contact fassalum@dal.ca

Join the Facebook event.

Watch Stephanie Dick’s compelling talk on how the concept of the “human” has changed in artificial intelligence research from the Cold War era to the present. Dr. Dick argues that the early research “sought to explicitly reproduce human faculties in machines.” Today, however, replicating “human” properties is secondary to the pursuit of enhancing the computational and predictive capabilities of AI systems.

Dr. Dick’s lecture, titled, “Making Up Minds: Thinking With, About and For Humans,” was given on April 4th, 2018 at the University of King’s College, Halifax, NS. Her talk was the final lecture in the “Automatons: From Ovid to AI” public lecture series.

Dr. Dick is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

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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.

 

Saint Mary’s University English prof Teresa Heffernan teamed up with Paul Abela of the Department of Philosophy, Acadia University, to argue for the “con” side in a policy debate last month on the implications of AI and robots for the future of society. While the pro v. con structure was simplistic, it generated a dynamic conversation on “grounds for optimism” compared to “concerns about what the future will bring.”

Dr. Heffernan argued that, “the massive industry and military investment driving this technology has already rendered a ‘con’ position irrelevant. There is no stopping it. All we can hope for is some sane regulation, more transparency, more education, less hype, and more voices in what’s been largely an unregulated field.” Acknowledging the optimism that characterized the early days of the internet, she outlined a range of negative impacts and risks indicative of the complex problems and disappointments of the new reality of social media and the “4th industrial revolution”. She concluded with the injunction that, “we cannot look to technology to solve our problems. We don’t need more engineers attempting to manufacture life for profit, we need more humans thinking creatively about how to share this planet with other complex lifeforms on which we all depend.”

The debate was hosted by Acadia University, with Ian Wilks (Acadia) serving as moderator. The “pro” side was represented by Danny Silver, Jodrey School of Computer Science, Director, Acadia Institute for Data Analytics, Acadia University, and Stan Matwin, Faculty of Computer Science, and Director of Big Data Analytics at Dalhousie University. Congratulations to Acadia University for hosting this fine event.