3. A.I.

Artificial Intelligence and the Posthumanities: A workshop funded by the British Academy

Royal Holloway, University of London, 11, Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RF


Posthumanism is an umbrella term for humanities-led approaches to ethical, political and conceptual problems which aim to be less anthropocentric. The posthumanities combine advancements in technology and the sciences with philosophical thinking to develop alternatives to humanism, a way of thinking which, in its focus on the centrality of ‘Man,’ is no longer sufficient to address the ethical and environmental challenges of the twenty-first century. In the context of AI, posthumanism invites us to ask questions such as:

  • What ethical and political challenges are raised by advancements in AI?
  • In what ways might advancements in AI challenge our understanding of agency, consciousness and subjectivity?
  • What are the dangers of trans- or techno-humanisms?
  • What challenges does AI pose to our understanding of the role and nature of the ‘human’?
  • In what ways might posthumanism inform policy-making with regard to AI?

This workshop brings researchers from the sciences and the humanities together with policymakers to open a dialogue around these issues.

9.30-9.45 Arrival 

9.45-10am Introduction: What are the Posthumanities?

10-11am Session 1: AI Research: Current questions and issues for the (post)humanities

Short talks from Andreas Vlachos (Senior Lecturer, Natural Language and Information Processing Group, University of Cambridge) and Chris Dyer (Senior Staff Scientist, DeepMind and Consulting Professor, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University). Chaired by Danielle Sands (Lecturer in Comparative Literature, Royal Holloway, and Fellow, Forum for European Philosophy, LSE).

11-11.30am Tea and Coffee Break

11.30-1pm Session 2: AI: What do the (post)humanities have to offer and how can we include them?

Roundtable discussion between Joanna Zylinska (Professor of New Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London), Matt Hayler (Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literatures and Digital Cultures, University of Birmingham), and Olga Goriunova (Reader in Digital Culture, Royal Holloway, University of London). Chaired by Tom Kewin (Doctoral Researcher, University of Liverpool).

1-2.30pm Lunch

2.30-3.30pm Session 3: AI, Philosophy and the (Post)humanities

Short talks from Constantine Sandis (Professor of Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire) and Henry Shevlin (Research Associate, University of Cambridge, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Humanities),followed by discussion. Chaired by Danielle Sands.

3.30-4pm Tea and Coffee Break

4-5.30pm Session 4: AI from Public Perception to Policy: Attitudes, approaches, language

Roundtable discussion between Adrian Weller (Senior Fellow in Machine Learning, University of Cambridge University, Programme Director for AI at the Alan Turing Institute), Daniel Allington (Senior Lecturer in Social and Cultural Artificial Intelligence), and David Roden (Lecturer in Philosophy, Open University). Chaired by Olivia Belton (Doctoral Researcher, University of East Anglia).

5.30pm Closing remarks