Humanist Discussion Group

Humanist Archives: April 6, 2021, 8:38 a.m. Humanist 34.315 - simply artificial?

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 315.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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    [1]    From: Willard McCarty <>
           Subject: slave, servant or companion? (42)

    [2]    From: Rafael Grohmann <>
           Subject: Histories of AI: Imaginaries and Materialities - Online Seminar - April 19-20 (131)

        Date: 2021-04-06 07:15:11+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: slave, servant or companion?

Aristotle imagines automata on the model of slaves: “if
every tool could perform its own work when ordered, or by seeing what to
do in advance… masters [would have] no need of slaves” (Pol. 1253b-1254a). 
He himself had slaves, as was universal in the ancient Mediterranean world, 
so when automata came to mind, he had a convenient way of 
conceptualising the idea. Classically educated Oscar Wilde, who had
servants, wrote that, "On mechanical slavery, on the slavery of the
machine, the future of the world depends." He was, of course, thinking
of machines that Marvin Minsky more than a century later would call
"precomputational". About that time, in a review of two or three
computer books in the Times Literary Supplement, pioneering systems
scientist Geoffrey Vickers strongly warned against yielding to the 
computational machine's seductive potential for slave labour:
doing so, he wrote, would bury the crucial epistemological question it
raised by implication: "Whether, and if so how, the playing of a role
differs from the application of rules which could and should be made
explicit and compatible" (1971).

Quite apart from all other considerations, answering Vickers' question
with an absolute division between ourselves as role-players (mother,
father, friend, neighbour etc) and the computer as an implemented
structure of totally explicit and absolutely consistent rules at least
feels wrong. Computer scientist Yorick Wilks is fond of the term
"artificial companion"; such are common in Japanese nursing homes, and a
Buddhist temple in Kyoto has one teaching the Heart Sutra to visitors.

Is the problem I am clumsily gesturing toward one of ontological status,
or, as Darwin remarked about the attempt to divide humans from the 
other animals, is it the drawing of a line that is useless, or worse, to 



Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

        Date: 2021-04-06 05:54:00+00:00
        From: Rafael Grohmann <>
        Subject: Histories of AI: Imaginaries and Materialities - Online Seminar - April 19-20

    Histories of AI: Imaginaries and Materialities

    April 19-20

    Hosted by [1]DigiLabour Research Lab and University of Cambridge
    -[2] Histories of Artificial Intelligence: A Genealogy of Power

    Online and free webinar

    Link: [3]

    Brazilian Time Zone (BRT) - please[4] check your timezone


    April 19

    08:30 AM - Welcome
    Rafael Grohmann (Unisinos University/ Histories of Artificial
    Jonnie Penn (University of Cambridge/ Histories of Artificial
    Bruno Moreschi (University of São Paulo/ Histories of Artificial

    09 AM - AI Imaginaries
    Kanta Dihal (University of Cambridge)
    Gustavo Fischer (Unisinos University)
    Simone Natale (University of Turin)

    Moderator: Giselle Beiguelman (University of São Paulo)

    11AM - AI Infrastructures
    Vladan Joler (University of Novi Sad)
    Jian Xiao (Zhejiang University)

    Moderator: Gabriel Pereira (Aarhus University)

    2PM - AI & Colonialism
    Syed Mustafa Ali (Open University)
    Paola Ricaurte (Monterrey Institute of Technology)
    Rachel Adams (Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa)
    Michael Kwet (Rhodes University, South Africa/ Yale Law School)

    Moderator: Kruskaya Hidalgo Cordero (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Ecuador)

    4PM - Vocabulary & Design of AI
    Amba Kak (AI Now!)
    Carla Vieira (perifaCode/ University of São Paulo)
    Luke Stark (University of Western Ontario)
    Ranjit Singh (Data & Society)

    Moderator: Évilin Matos (Unisinos University)

    April 20

    09AM - AI, Automation and Economics
    Matthew Cole (University of Oxford)
    Edemilson Paraná (Federal University of Ceará)

    Moderator: Esther Majerowicz (Federal University of Rio Grande do

    11AM - AI & Gender
    Chenai Chair (My Data Rights Africa/ Mozilla Foundation)
    Janet Abbate (VirginiaTech)
    Mariana Valente (InternetLab)

    Moderator: Maria Clara Aquino (Unisinos University)

    2PM -  AI & Work
    Sarah T. Roberts (University of California, Los Angeles - UCLA)
    Rafael Grohmann (Unisinos University)
    Julian Posada (University of Toronto)

    Moderator: Camila Acosta (University of São Paulo)

    4PM - AI & Music
    Jonathan Sterne (McGill University)
    Adriana Amaral (Unisinos University)
    Andrés Segura-Castillo (Universidad Estatal a Distancia Costa Rica)

    Moderator: Carol Govari (Unisinos University)

    6PM: Closing Keynote
    Sareeta Amrute (University of Washington)
    information: [5]
    If you have any queries, please email us: [6]
    Rafael Grohmann
    Assistant Professor in Communication, [7]Universidade do Vale do Rio
    dos Sinos (Unisinos), Brazil
    Coordinator, DigiLabour[8] Research Lab
    Principal Investigator for Fairwork Project in Brazil
    Researcher of[9] Histories of AI project, University of Cambridge,
    International Research and Collaboration Award
    Member, Scholarly Council, Center for Critical Internet Inquiry
    (C2i2)[10], UCLA
    Founding Board Member of the Labor Tech Research Network


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