Launch event for Futures Thinking, a new research group looking into future problems and opportunities created by advances in technology and artificial intelligence.
In literature, in popular media, in scientific research, and in public consciousness, discourse about the future, machine learning, and the human elements of digital technologies proliferates more now than ever before. Thanks to developments in artificial intelligence (AI), we are able to speculate about how our fundamentally social species might interact with performatively human-like machines of our own making. Television shows like Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale, and novels like The Circle or Never Let Me Go speculate about dystopian futures that reflect political realities not unlike those that are currently unfolding in the Global North.
Ethics in AI are much debated in science fiction. However, the scholars in the fields of AI and those in literature, history, and gender studies seldom interact to discuss the realities and probabilities of the future of a technologically advanced mankind. Crucially important to our network is the recognition of how narrative informs and shapes the future. Bringing scholars of historical and literary narratives into conversation with ethicists and developers of digital AI technologies is of paramount importance to futures thinking.
Discussion on AI and global governance is thriving at Oxford, while speculative fiction is an important emerging field in literary studies. This network brings these fields into conversation. We extend from exploring speculative fiction research, questions about the robustness of machine learning, the future trade-offs between privacy and security, to thinking about how we might use historical feminist consciousness-raising methods to engage in interdisciplinary collaboration.
We are keen for interested parties to join our group so if you work on or are interested in any aspect of futures thinking, be it in science or the humanities, in any of the University’s divisions, please contact us and come along to our events!
We are a network founded on principles of access and inclusion, and strive to host events that consider the lifestyle ethics and carer-responsibilities of our members and attendees, as well as their access needs, pronouns, and other inclusion needs. Please do contact us for further information on our manifesto.
Chelsea Haith, Futures Thinking Founder, DPhil in Contemporary Literature
Prof Robert Iliffe, Professor of History of Science
Dr Gretta Corporaal, Sociologist of Work and Organisations in the OII
Dr Alexandra Paddock, Editorial Lead on LitHits, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of English
Prof Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, LitHits Founder, Professor of English and Theatre Studies
Alice Billington, Futures Thinking Co-Convenor, DPhil in Modern History