Human Entities 2017, talk 1 – Adrian Currie

  • Location:
    Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Campo Santa Clara 142-145, 1100-474 Lisbon, Portugal

Human Entities: culture in the age of artificial intelligence – 2nd edition 2017
Public talks, free entrance
Organised by CADA, in partnership with the Lisbon Architecture Triennale.

Talk 1
Wednesday 4 October 2017, 18.30 – 20.30

Why stories matter: AI narratives, existential risk, and science
Adrian Currie (NZ/UK)
The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge, UK

I want to talk about how stories—narratives—about emerging technologies like artificial intelligence matter to both how they are received outside science, and are developed within it.

Our technological power is increasing, often leaving our ability to control and understand it struggling to keep up. Given how transformative emerging technologies are likely to be for human society, considering the possible futures they might take us down are crucial.

My way into this discussion is through existential risk: risks which, if actualized, pose a threat to our existence as a species, or to crucial aspects of human civilization. I will talk about why science, as currently organized, is ill-suited for tackling existential risks.

In brief, science has features which make it productive but conservative, and this conservatism undermines our capacity to think in the creative, speculative ways that existential risks demand. From this discussion, I’ll turn to the importance of narratives in our understanding of existential risk and emerging technologies, artificial intelligence in particular. If it is right that the stories we tell about technology shape its development, then if our stories are too few, or too impoverished, that could warp technological progress and have problematic—or disastrous—results.

Adrian Currie
Adrian is primarily interested in how scientists generate knowledge in tricky circumstances: where evidence is thin on the ground, targets are complex and obstinate, and our understanding is limited. He emphasizes the opportunistic, pluralistic and speculative strategies scientists adopt to overcome such challenges. He has published widely on topics from the method of the ‘historical sciences’ (paleontology, archaeology and geology), the comparative method in biology, the nature and science of music, ethical and scientific issues concerning geoengineering, and the importance of storytelling in science. He completed his PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra and has taught and worked at the University of Victoria in Wellington, the University of Sydney, the University of Calgary, the University of Bucharest, and in Cambridge, where he currently works for the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. At the centre, he is investigating how the incentive structures which drive science often make it conservative, and potentially inadequate for the challenges powerful emerging technologies pose.
Venue: Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Campo Santa Clara 142-145, 1100-474 Lisbon, Portugal
Date: Wednesday 4 October 2017, 18.30 – 20.30


This event is part of
Human Entities: culture in the age of artificial intelligence
Public talks October – November 2017

Read more about the programme: