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AI IV: "The Real Life 'Ex Machina' Is Here": Restoring the Gap between Science and Fiction

Teresa Heffernan 

Professor of English, Saint Mary’s University 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019 

3 - 5 p.m. 

Milieux Institute, EV 10.625 (Speculative Life Research Cluster) 

As a literary scholar, I have often been struck by the many references to fiction in discussions about the science of artificial intelligence and robotics, but how is fiction mobilized in this field? Why, for instance, are fictional robots so frequently collapsed with the robotics industry? And how do science and fiction differently imagine robots and artificial intelligence? The ubiquitous claims that fiction is coming true demonstrate a lack of understanding of how fiction works and thoroughly obfuscate the AI field, clouding the science and neutering the critical force of fiction. Referring to the new Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society in Toronto, Geoffrey Hinton said recently “My hope is that the Schwartz Reisman Institute will be the place where deep learning disrupts the humanities.” In contrast, this talk asks how the humanities might usefully challenge deep learning. 

Teresa Heffernan is Professor of English at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, NS. Her current research is on the science and fiction of robotics and AI. Her edited collection Cyborg Futures: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics is forthcoming with Palgrave, where she is co-editor (with Cathrine Hasse and Kathleen Richardson) of the Social and Cultural Studies of Robots and AI book series. Her previous books include Veiled Figures: Women, Modernity, and the Spectres of Orientalism (2016) and Post-Apocalyptic Culture: Modernism, Postmodernism, and the Twentieth-Century Novel (2008). 

Hosted by Machine Agencies Research Group, Milieux Institute