Past Events

 

 

AI and the Future of Humanity Project – Conference 2: The Singularity Summit: Imagination, Memory, Consciousness, Agency, Values
26-27 September 2018 – Jesus College, Cambridge

Numerous research projects around the world are attempting to simulate human “intelligence” based in part on neurophysiological theories of memory and imagination. Although considerable work has been done in this area since the early 1990s, AI is currently experiencing a quantum shift, one that requires an in-depth review of the primary human faculties as well as the moral dimension of human existence. While these research and development programs would benefit greatly from dialogue with philosophy of mind, aesthetics, literary and cultural studies, and philosophical theology, there is a lack of dialogue between scholars in these areas and the AI communities.

Topics for discussion included: Definitions of the Technological Singularity, The Self, Identity, Agency and free will, Gödel  and Kripke (Computational Brain),  Embodiment, Consciousness,  Imagination, Moral behaviour, Aesthetics, Radical Enactivism.

This conference provided a much-needed opportunity for interdisciplinary discussion between these groups who do not often find themselves around the same table.

 

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AI & the Future of Humanity Project – Conference 1 AI in Sci Fi Film and Literature

15-16 March 2018 – Jesus College, Cambridge

Conference report is available here:  AI in Science Fiction SHDP Conference Report.

The term “singularity” was introduced by the science fiction writer Vernor Vinge in a 1983; it was picked up by Ray Kurzweil in his popular 2005 book The Singularity is Near. At many stages we find fiction in all its forms driving ideas in AI and vice-versa. Crucially, we find the relationship between AI developments and our hopes, fears and ambitions, worked out imaginatively through a variety of media. Hence film and literary fictions have been a forum for the drama of ideas that circulate around AI and its future, not least its moral dimension.

What can we learn about ourselves in relation to AI by exploring these narratives? Film studies experts and critics will provide commentaries on Sci-fi movies and tv, and sci-fi writers will read and discuss their own works and their choice of works featuring AI.   There are powerful religious themes in the history of sci-fi machine intelligence, such as achievement of immortality, notions of Omega point futures, transhumanism, the prospect of androids outstripping humans in virtue (cf Terminator 2).

The conference convened AI experts, SF authors, critics, and researchers from literature, film studies, philosophy, psychology, computer science, neuroscience.

This was the first conference in SHDP’s AI and the Future of Humanity Project.  We are grateful to Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF) for their funding of this project.

Agenda:

11.30-11.40    Welcome and Introduction

John Cornwell Science & Human Dimension Project – AI and the Future of Humanity

Prof Murray Shanahan  Defining terms in AI

11.45-13.00     Session 1 – Monsters and AI: Frankenstein and the Golem

Chair: John Cornwell

Prof Adam Roberts Frankenstein; Dr Yaron Peleg   The Golem: from Legend to Metaphor

13.55-15.15     Session 2 – Explaining the Future through Sci-Fi

Chair: Sumit Paul-Choudhury

Keith Mansfield  Bostrom’s Superintelligence through Sci-Fi Film: Colossus – The Forbin Project;      Ex Machina; and Star Trek – The Motion Picture

Dr Patrick Crogan   Techno-Science Fictions of AI: Swarming AI in Visions of Future War

Christopher Markou   Sci-Fi Depiction of Future and Alternative Legal Systems

15.20-16.35     Session 3 – Anxiety, Apocalypticism and AI

Chair: Professor Kathleen Richardson

Dr Beth Singler   Robopocalypses: Introducing an Anthropology of Anxiety

Anne Charnock   Why I’m afraid of the Super Machine – Sci-Fi author inspiration

Prof Olle Häggström   Apocalyptic Scenarios: Science Fiction or Real Risk?

17.05-18.15     Session 4 – AI in Film and TV

Chair: Zoe Wible

Dr Hallvard Haug    Artificial Intelligence in Film and Television – an Overview

Emma Reeves and David Chikwe Fearing and embracing “the other”; creating an AI for BBC Children’s TV

19.30               Dinner – Upper Hall

21.15               Screening of Forbidden Planet – Frankopan Hall

 

Day 2: Friday, 16 March 2018

09.15-10.00     Session 5 – Forbidden Planet and AI

Chair: Prof Adam Roberts

Prof Murray Shanahan, Kerry Shanahan

10.00-10.50    Session 6 – Machine Messiah: Lessons for AI in Destination: Void

Chair: Dr Tim Jenkins; Dr Ron Chrisley

11.25-12.25     Session 7 – Leverhulme Centre for Future of Intelligence

Chair: Dr Stephen Cave  On the dichotomies that shape our hopes and fears for AI

Dr Kanta Dihal   The influence of Isaac Asimov’s fictional laws of robotics on public policy

13.25-14.35     Session 8 – AI in Sci-Fi Author Session and Workshop

Chair: Prof Thore Husfeldt

Justina Robson     Life Finds A Way; creating AGI and the stories that shape the future

Dr Paul J. McAuley   A brief history of encounters with things that think

Lavie Tidhar       Greek Gods, Potemkin AI and Alien Intelligence

Ian McDonald     The Quickness of Hand Deceives the AI

14.35-15.25     Workshop – AGI Scenarios in Sci-Fi

Prof Thore Husfeldt

15.25-15.40     Concluding Remarks

Chair: John Cornwell

Dr Beth Singler; Prof Kathleen Richardson; Prof Murray Shanahan; Prof Adam Roberts

 

 

Memory & Imagination in Humans & Machines

DeepMind and SHDP Conference
21-22 September 2017 – Cambridge

Artificial Intelligence and neuroscience in discussion with the humanities – philosophy, psychology and the arts.  This conference was a collaboration of SHDP and DeepMind and was by invitation.

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Science – The Next Generation
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11 May 2011
Conference Overview
This one-day meeting on Wednesday May 11, 2011 (in association with City University Journalism School and BlueSci) brought together a group of young scientists to discuss the problems and constraints, the scope and potential, of careers in science journalism at a time of rapid media change and challenge. The structure of the meeting was designed to promote an exchange of viewpoints and a sharing of experiences. Each segment was introduced briefly by two seasoned practitioners: followed by open-floor discussion.
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The Irrelevance of Ethics Lecture by Alasdair MacIntyre
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The Science & Human Dimension Project – Prospect Magazine Lecture
On 3 June 2010 Professor Alasdair MacIntyre, author of After Virtue and some thirty books on ethics, gave a lecture sponsored by the Science & Human Dimension Project and Prospect magazine. The text of the article John Cornwell wrote for Prospect magazine’s October 2010 issue on the lecture and its background is available here.
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Ethics and the Media in an Era of Complex Moral Challenge
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23 February 2010
Conference Overview
The Science & Human Dimension Project held a roundtable workshop for an exchange of views on media coverage of ethical and religious issues. A constituency of leading journalists, ethicists and representatives of different faiths discussed the access, fairness, balance and quality of ethical perspectives in print, radio, TV, photojournalism and online media. Our aim ultimately was to explore ways in which media practitioners at every level can develop and enhance their ethical insights and presentation of issues. This meeting occurred at a time when the domains of politics, medical science, business, economics, the environment, social and human rights, face increasingly complex and unprecedented choices and judgments. At the same time, the world’s leading faiths are experiencing mounting challenges and scrutiny from secular and pluralist standpoints.

God and the Philosophers
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SHDP Conference  2008
Public interest in religious debate has recently been fed by a series of books of popular polemic against theism, religion and the discipline of theology itself. A small industry has grown up around these works – by authors such as Dawkins, Dennett and Hitchens. Philosophers, theologians convened to debate and reflect on their attitudes to religion and the status and sources of their various religious and spiritual sympathies, their secularism or agnosticism. Speakers included Sir Anthony Kenny, Michael McGhee, and Nicholas Lash.
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Ethics of Human Embryo Research                                                                               ……………………………………….                                                                                                                  

SHDP Conference 2007
Following the EU’s granting of funding for human embryonic stem cell research in July 2006, some declared the arguments and debate against it, over whilst others thought it had barely begun. The aim of this conference was to explore the meaning of the term soul within the Judaic-Christian tradition to test the strength of the Cartesian idea which is often taken for granted in the ethical debate: as in a human being is “ensouled” at the moment of conception.

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Report on Media and Development in Africa: A Case Study based on North Kenya

SHDP Conference 2006 – Media & Development in Africa
This conference explored the media coverage of development and aid in Africa. Senior Kenyan development workers discussed poverty, development and the media with specialists from NGOs, the Department for International Development, charities, development academics, and journalists.

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Creativity and Depression

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SHDP Symposium 2005 – Creativity & Depression
There has long been a notion that creativity and imagination are associated with forms of depression and even psychosis. This conference explored a wide-ranging approach to the topic, including literary, historical, and psychiatric perspectives.The discussion focused particularly on the way in which depression is reported in the media as well biographically and autobiographically.

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The Anthropic Principle and the Multiverse

SHDP Debate 2003

John Polkinghorne and Sir Martin Rees tackled the notion of the anthropic principle – the existence of numerical accidents in the Universe that were essential for the development of life. The speakers went on to draw contrasting conclusions from this circumstance, and explanations. John Polkinghorne insisted that principle indicated a prime mover or mind in the Universe, which he would call God, while Martin Rees invoked a multiverse in which there is an infinite series of Big Bangs, each resulting in a different set of laws of chemistry and physics. According to this theory we are living in the Universe in which the conditions, while extraordinary, are right for life – by chance rather than by design. Present at the meeting were a number of scientists, philosophers, and theologians. The latter tended to be unimpressed by Polkinghorne’s reflection since they were unhappy with any conclusion that smacked of a “God of the Gaps”.

“Copenhagen”: Science, War, and the Devil’s Pact

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SHDP Conference 2002 – Copenhagen
The conference explored the ethics of science, using as a focus Michael Frayn’s play Copenhagen which was staged at the conference with Michael Frayn fielding questions. Mark Walker and Paul Lawrence Rose spoke directly to the German historical and biographical background of Heisenberg and Niels Bohr. Other speakers included Walter Gratzer, Lewis Wolpert, Henning Grunwald and John Naughton.

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Virtual Universities

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SHDP Conference 2001 – Virtual Universities
The growth in the use of the internet and related technologies for teaching and learning brought together a variety of distance and e-learning specialists from Europe, and the United States, working mainly in the fields of publishing and tertiary level education

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Explanations: Styles of Explanation in Science

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SHDP Conference 2000 – Styles of Explanation in Science
This meeting brought together philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, and anthropologists to discuss why explanations work, why they vary between disciplines, periods, and cultures, and to discover whether they have any necessary boundaries. The issues engaged the keen interest of the participants from the media, for it is in journalism that the notion of an explanation is often misused or misunderstood. Speakers included Peter Atkins, Sir Martin Rees, Peter Lipton, Colin McGinn and Juliet Mitchell.

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Consciousness and Human Identity

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SHDP Conference 1997 – Consciousness & Human Identity
Consciousness has puzzled philosophers, naturalists, and theologians down the ages. Now it has caught the interest of contemporary scientists, some of whom believe they are on the brink of discovering its basis in neurobiological processes. This meeting of neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers, theologians and novelists, discussed the prospects and consequences for finding a scientific explanation of consciousness. Speakers included Margaret Boden, John Searle, Steven Rose, Mary Midgely, Jeremy Butterfield, Peter Lipton and David Lodge.

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The Next Generation

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SHDP Conference 1996 – Science, the Next Generation
The Science and Human Dimension Project brought twenty four young scientists together to discuss the future of their disciplines: physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, computer science, and medicine. This meeting was supported by Wellcome Trust, Chiroscience Ltd, and the New Scientist.

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Science and the Media

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SHDP Conference 1995
This specialist forum for participants from the science media was convened to discuss current issues of interest and concern. Speakers included Nigel Hawkes of The Times, John Maddox ofNature, Ravi Mirchandani of Penguin¸ Alun Anderson of the New Scientist and Duncan Dallas of Café Scientifique. The meeting was sponsored by Nature.

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Plato and Mathematics

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SHDP Symposium 1994
Logicians and philosophers of mathematics discussed the mathematical Platonism with Penelope Maddy, Michael Redhead, Tim Smiley, Jeremy Butterfield, and Peter Smith. Is mathematics created by the mind or does it have an extra-mental existence, and what are the implications for philosophy?

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Sir Francis Crick on Scientific Search for the Soul

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SHDP  Lecture 1994
Nobel Prize winner Sir Francis Crick discussed his book The Astonishing Hypothesis in which he argues that explanations for human higher order consciousness are best studied from the “bottom up”.

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Mathematical Education

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SHDP Symposium 1993
A group of world-class mathematicians, scientists, and professors of mathematical education explored the role of mathematics in different academic disciplines.

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Reductionism’s Primacy in the Natural Sciences

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SHDP Conference 1992
This conference brought together world class neuroscientists, mathematicians, physicists, philosophers, psychiatrists, biologists, engineers, publishers and journalists to discuss to what extent reductionist method is shaping, and “reducing”, psychology, social studies, and even the humanities? Speakers included Nobel Prize Winner Gerald Edelman, Oliver Sacks, Freeman Dyson, Roger Penrose, John D Barrow, Paul M. Churchland, Patricia Churchland, Mary Midgely, and Peter Atkins.

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