College hosts free talk on artificial intelligence

Rob Larson

Rob Larson

A free talk later this month will examine the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence.

Rob Larson, Ph.D., assistant professor of Communication and Media Studies, will give remarks titled "The Robot Next Door" at 3:40 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24 in Tower Hall room 4119. A Q&A will follow. The event is free, and refreshments will be provided.

Larson will explore the recent media-related technological progress now regularly depicted in popular culture through film and television. The popularity of HBO's "Westworld," AMC/BBC's "Humans," the "Black Mirror" series on Netflix and films like "Ex Machina" and "Her" reveals society's preoccupation with artificial intelligence and robots. Larson's presentation will address questions about whether robots will replace humans in the workforce, whether people are being outsmarted by AI, and the meaning of the Singularity hypothesis and whether it will ever be more than science fiction.

His talk will draw from pop culture references, discuss household appliances like iRobot's automated Roomba vacuum cleaner and Amazon's Dash Button, and engage with theories from the fields of aesthetics and computing, such as the Turing Test (a test developed in the 1950s to gauge intelligence in a computer) and the Uncanny Valley (a vaguely disturbing level of realism in robots and computer-generated figures). The presentation is an ethical inquiry into the foundations of human dignity as humans spend more of their lives interacting daily with "non-humanity." The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.

The workshop is part of a faculty colloquium series now in its tenth year. The series provides visibility to diverse research projects by faculty members in St. Scholastica's School of Arts and Letters.