Workshop: The Machine as Mirror

Country: United Kingdom

City: Leicester

Abstr. due: 25.07.2016

Dates: 06.09.16 — 06.09.16

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: De Montfort University


Recent high profile discussion on sex robots has served to highlight some broader unresolved issues in artificial intelligence, the simulation of behaviour, and human-machine interaction. This workshop aims to explore in a grounded way some fundamental issues in this area. Many of these cluster around the ideas of relationships, intimacy, and drive. In every case there is the possibility that the questions raised of technology are questions about ourselves; that answers reflect ourselves. In pursuing discussion in these areas we can explore both how we envision and use technology to influence the world, and how we occupy that very world.

Some discussion in this area has drawn in moral thinking, ethics of technology development, and the role of economy in science. It isn’t clear that these discussions have been explored in a coordinated way. Despite this, there is a great deal of work ongoing in research projects such as the Human Brain Project and others under the rubric of responsible research and innovation (RRI). Established lines of thought in areas such as actor network theory, RRI, and other critical themes in governance, have seemingly been underplayed in the discourse. Philosophical, sociological, and historical groundings for positions have been largely tacit. The political dimension of much of the discourse has remained obscure, and often unstated.

Some workshop focal points might include the following:

  • The mediation of human relations is increasingly a function of technology — from SMS to Skype meetings and beyond — is this regressive, progressive, something else?
  • Mediations are rarely ‘innocent’, involving processes and side-tracks that users may know little or nothing about. How should such realities be handled, and what could they imply?
  • In what sense does intentionality emerge from, or impinge upon, mediated human relations? Who controls the medium? What if it controls itself? Where does responsibility begin and end?
  • What should drive ‘smart’ technologies? If AI seeks to recreate human-like intelligence, can it leave out sex, emotion, fear, and other emotional dimensions of human experience?

Further questions surround how we might go about approaching these questions — is there a good or bad, a right or a wrong way to answer them?

Conference Web-Site: