UB Humanities Institute’s Annual Festival Reflects on “Life in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” – UBNow: News and Views for UB Faculty and Staff
The UB Humanities Institute (HI) will present the 2022 Humanities Festival from September 23-25, a free event exploring the theme of “Life in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”, featuring speakers, panels, music and community conversations in partnership with SUNY Buffalo State, Canisius College, Daemen University, Niagara University and Humanities New York.
“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a double-edged sword that has ingrained itself into our lives in both subtle and overt ways. How does it help? How does it hurt? Christina Milletti, Associate Professor of English and Acting Director of HI “Over three days, the Buffalo Humanities Festival will attempt to start conversations about the benefits and harms of AI, including the elements of the technology that could inadvertently create risks.”
Artificial intelligence is the most recent and public example of an emerging technology that raises questions about the social, ethical and moral implications of its development. The uncertainty is similar to what surrounded the advent of the broadcast age and the early stages of internet access, according to Lindsay Brandon Hunter, associate professor of theater and acting executive director of HI.
“There’s a long history of moral panic and legitimate social inquiry into how new media shapes social action,” says Hunter. “When we integrate new technologies into a social system, there will always be friction and celebration. Perhaps what emerges from contemporary concerns about AI and algorithmic techniques is the realization that technological change is happening so rapidly that we don’t have time to pull back the curtain to see what’s really going on. , who controls it and why.
Kicking off the festival at 6 p.m. on September 23 at the Torn Space Theater, 612 Fillmore Ave., Buffalo, will feature “AfroRithms of the future“, a collective and interactive storytelling performance involving the public and local “players” who, through creative gameplay based on Afrofuturism, seek to find solutions to dismantle systemic racism in favor of a socially just future, especially for those who don’t traditionally benefit from technology.
AfroRithms co-founders Ahmed Best, assistant professor of drama at the University of Southern California (and the actor/voice behind “Star Wars” character Jar Jar Binks), and Lonny J Avi Brooks , from California State University, will conduct the performance. professor of strategic communications at East Bay, alongside the Buffalo “players” Chanon Judson, visiting associate professor of theater and dance and co-artistic director of the famous dance company Urban Bush Women; Donte McFadden, director of UB’s Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program; Samina Raja, professor of urban planning and regional planning; and Taylor Coleman, UB graduate student in African and American Studies.
All other festival panels and performances will take place at Silo City. The full program is available online.
The festival in Silo City is highlighted by two special conversations with guests. The first, starting at 11 a.m. on September 24, features the return of the band AfroRithms and selects players for a “debrief” session of the Buffalo edition of the game. At 11 a.m. on September 25, the festival features a tour of the University of Texas at Austin’s Good group of systemsa team of humanities and science scholars working to ensure the development of ethical and socially responsible AI.
Samuel Baker, associate professor of English and co-founder of Good Systems Group, and Sharon Strover, professor of journalism and media, and co-director of the university’s Technology and Information Policy Institute, will discuss “human values and AI” with Kenny Joseph, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at UB.
This year’s program could be the largest and most diverse conference HI has produced since the start of the annual Humanities Festival, according to Milletti.
Researchers and scholars in philosophy, media studies, computer science, engineering, music, criminal justice, mobile computing, materials design, literature, theater and communication disorders will participate in a “convergent” conversation this year.
“We need all the critical investigative tools the humanities have to offer, in conversation with science, to interrogate the profound impact of AI on our lives – from simple product and movie suggestions to divisive social media silos, transportation safety and, perhaps even travel to Mars,” says Milletti.
The 2022 festival hopes to model this converging conversation by deeply integrating varied disciplines into each panel to create new ways to address existing challenges.
“Our goal is to cultivate a rigorous and hopeful discussion,” says Hunter. “Our audience will walk away feeling like they’ve been part of a conversation where diverse disciplines have come together not only to exchange exciting ideas, but also to understand what each of us can bring to an incomplete dialogue without converging participation. ”