UB showcase explores the impact of AI on daily life

Release Date: April 1, 2022

Print
Portrait of David Castillo, PhD, director of the UB Humanities Institute.
“This showcase is an opportunity to hear how the humanities can raise awareness and develop strategies to adjust, as individuals and as communities, to the influx of information technologies and begin to think about a future where human and non-human agents interact in the age of AI. ”
David Castillo, PhD, director
UB Humanities Institute

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Most people cross paths with some form of artificial intelligence (AI) more often than they see their closest friends. It might be easier in fact to avoid water while swimming than to sidestep a daily encounter with AI. It’s everywhere, from social media platforms to online retail. And while its influence steadily grows, there’s little discussion, beyond talk of furthering AI’s profit potential, that’s addressing its effect on our lives.

But David Castillo, PhD, a University at Buffalo professor of Romance languages and literature, and director of UB’s Humanities Institute (HI), says it’s “time to press the pause button” in order to thoughtfully consider the social, cultural and historical implications of artificial intelligence.

That’s just what the HI is doing on April 6-7 in Baird Hall on the UB North Campus.

Under its programming banner of “Humanities to the Rescue,” the HI is presenting “Life in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” a two-day showcase of faculty and student research and panel discussions examining the effects of artificial intelligence, big data and revolutionary technologies in our daily lives.

The event begins at 11:30 a.m. on both days and is free and open to the public. A complete program schedule is available online.

“This showcase is an opportunity to hear how the humanities can raise awareness and develop strategies to adjust, as individuals and as communities, to the influx of information technologies and begin to think about a future where human and non-human agents interact in the age of AI,” says Castillo.

“We want to focus on what that means; how we can prepare; and what conversations and debates we should be having concerning the ethical, political, cultural and economic implications of the omnipresence of artificial intelligence in just about every aspect of our lives.”

AI is driving the current age of inflationary media, along with the accompanying spread of disinformation, according to Castillo, an expert in the early modern period and on new media and culture.

This AI fueled disinformation is not a new problem, he says. Disinformation has a long historical arc that covers the arrival of the printing press and the challenges arising in an age in which people could relate to all printed material as having equal value, regardless of its basis in truth or falsehood.

“I don’t think anyone can look at where we are as a society and fail to acknowledge that AI has been disruptive,” says Christina Milletti, PhD, associate professor of English and the HI’s executive director. “But how do we balance that disruption with the ways AI has improved our lives? That’s among the questions we’re trying to answer during the showcase, with input from faculty and students from disciplines both within and outside the humanities in an unusual, but much-needed, ‘un-siloed’ conversation.”

In addition to the UB-led discussions, the showcase will welcome two visiting participants:

  • Elly R. Truitt, PhD, a University of Pennsylvania associate professor of history and sociology of science, whose book “Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature and Art” explores the history of automata in medieval Latin culture.
  • Alison Calhoun, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of French and Italian at the University of Indiana Bloomington, who most recently has been investigating the late 18th century turn into the so-called “age of sensibility,” when scientists and artists alike developed a clearer case for human exceptionalism and established stricter borders between machines and people.

“We’ve invited participants who can provide a wide variety of perspectives to give our audience an informed understanding for how we’ve arrived at this moment and, more importantly, how we can break out of it,” says Milletti.

“This kind of multidisciplinary participation is part of our effort to bring together humanists with people from computer science, medicine, engineering, and public health, among other disciplines, to organize and encourage conversations in the direction of convergence research,” adds Castillo.

Support for “Life in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” is provided in part by the new “Judith B. Kerman Fellow in Technology and the Humanities” fund, established to support graduate student humanities-based research technologies.

Media Contact Information

Bert Gambini
News Content Manager
Arts and Humanities, Economics, Social Sciences, Social Work
Tel: 716-645-5334
gambini@buffalo.edu