The future is upon us, or so it seems. Not for the first time, and surely not for the last, bold and far-reaching claims are being made about how new technologies will change the world. Artificial intelligence will solve previously intractable problems – climate change, cancer and inequality – or, alternatively, will lead to the downfall of the human race. The reality of course will lie somewhere in between. Where, exactly, is far from inevitable. At present, our capacity to intervene in these potential futures is limited by the separation of expertise into discrete disciplines within the Academy, and beyond. This talk proposes an interdisciplinary approach to digital futures in three parts. First, it builds on social science theory to establish a sociotechnical approach to the future. This insists that how we think about the future, in the past and the present, is critical to how particular futures will emerge. Second, it evaluates current thinking about AI futures to find gaps and uncertainties that offer promise for intervention. Third, it considers how we might approach AI futures differently, to challenge determinism through speculative design, inclusive capacity building and public dialogue. Together, these hold the promise of a new collective ‘response-ability’ that may allow us to approach the future differently.
About the presenter:
Professor Susan Halford is a Geographer by training, has been a Sociologist for the past 25 years and over the past decade has worked across the social and computational sciences to with a research focus on the politics of digital data and infrastructures. As Professor of Sociology, she was a founding Director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton where she also co-directed an interdisciplinary PhD programme in Web Science. In 2019 Susan joined the University of Bristol as Professor of Sociology and co-Director of the newly established Institute for Digital Futures which will be a central part of the University’s new Temple Quarter innovation campus. Susan is a member of the UKRI Digital Economy Programme Board, of the UK Cabinet Office Digital Government Partnership and the International Social Media and Society Board Programme. She is a Fellow of the UK Academy of Social Sciences and the Royal Society of Arts and is currently President of the British Sociological Association 2018-20.
Attendees must register to attend.