2002

What Makes Us so Special? Humans and Their Machines, Machines and Their Humans

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Computers that talk back. Cars that navigate for us. Stem cell technology that produces new body parts. Organs, limbs, and pets that need to have their batteries changed. Computers that generate images for epic literature, movies, and music. While our machines grow faster, become more powerful, and seem more independent of us, we become more dependent on them. And, as we create machines that are more complex and flexible, both stranger and more eerily familiar, our creations increasingly raise new questions.

  • How does technology reflect, change or recreate humanity?
  • What does it mean to live surrounded by, intimate with, and dependent on technology most of us barely understand?
  • What do our creations, these new dark mirrors, teach us about what it means to be human?
  • What, if anything, is left that makes us special?

These are our questions. What are yours? The First Utah Symposium in Science and Literature will bring together experts from literature, computer science, molecular biology and genetics, robotics, philosophy, psychology, theology, and other disciplines to talk about these questions with each other and with interested members of the public. Join us at the first Utah Symposium in Science and Literature to talk with specialists and with others who are curious, willing to learn, and eager to discuss issues raised by the increasingly complex relationship between humans and their machines, machines and their humans.

 


Keynotes

brooksDr. Rodney Brooks is a robotics entrepreneur and Founder, Chairman and CTO of Heartland Robotics, Inc. He is also a Founder, Board Member and former CTO (1991 - 2008) of iRobot Corp (Nasdaq: IRBT) and the Panasonic Professor of Robotics (on leave) at MIT. Dr. Brooks is the former Director (1997 - 2007) of the MIT Artificial Intelliigence Laboratory and then the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). He received degrees in pure mathematics from the Flinders University of South Australia and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1981. He held research positions at Carnegie Mellon University and MIT, and a faculty position at Stanford before joining the faculty of MIT in 1984. He has pubished many papers in computer vision, artificial intelligence, robotics, and artificial life.

Dr. Brooks serves as a member of the International Scientific Advisory Group (ISAG) of National Information and Communication Technology Australia (NICTA), and on the Global Innovation and Technology Advisory Council of John Deere & Co. He is an Xconomist at Xconomy and a regular contributor to the Edge.

 

powersRichard Powers, Swanlund Chair in English at the University of Illinois, is a MacArthur Fellow and the recipient of a 1999 Lannan Literary Award. He is the author of seven novels, including Gain, which won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Historical Fiction from the Society for American Historians; Galatea 2.2 and The Gold Bug Variations, both of which were nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Prisoner's Dilemma. Powers' writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Time, and Harper's. He is renowned for his trenchant, lyrical meditations on the meaning generated by human interaction with technology and history.

 

 

 

foerstDr.theol. Anne Foerst is visiting professor for Theology and Computer Science at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, NY since Jan 2001. Previously, she has worked as research scientist at the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and was also affiliated with the Center for the Studies of Values in Public Life of Harvard Divinity School.

At the AI-Lab, she served as the theological advisor for the Cog and Kismet Projects, two attempts to develop embodied, autonomous and social robots in analogy to human infants which might learn and develop more mature intelligences. She also initiated and directs "God and Computers," a dialogue project initially between Harvard Divinity School, the Boston Theological Institute and MIT and now to be continued at St. Bonaventure. In this function, she has organized several public lecture series and public conferences on Artificial Intelligence, computer science and concepts on personhood and dignity. She is consultant of several projects which explore the connection of new media and religion and especially the Christian churches; she has also presented various keynote addresses on the interaction between religion and science.

 

 


Panel Discussions

THE MAN OF PARTS: WHERE DO I LEAVE OFF AND MY MACHINES BEGIN?

Om Ghandi, PhD, Electrical Engineering
Richard Norman, PhD, Engineering
Tamara Ketabgian, PhD, English
Stephen Jacobsen, PhD, Bioengineering

PRINTING PRESS, STEAM ENGINE, CYBERSPACE: NEW MILLENNIUM OR PROGRESS AS USUAL?

Thomas Henderson, PhD, Computer Science
James O'Connell, PhD, Anthropology
William Johnston, PhD, Psychology
Stephen Downes, PhD, Philosophy

THE MEDIUM AND THE MESSAGE: HAS TECHNOLOGY CHANGED THE NATURE OF CREATIVITY?

Katharine Coles, PhD, Creative Writing
Maureen O'Hara Ure, MFA, Fine Arts ( visual art)
Chris Johnson, PhD, Computer Science
Mario Capecchi, PhD, Human Genetics

NOW THAT MY PC IS "SMART," IS IT WRONG TO UNPLUG IT? WHO DECIDES WHO'S HUMAN?

Debora Threedy, JD, Law
Margaret Battin, PhD, Philosophy
Aden Ross, PhD, Creative Writing
Richard Koehn, PhD, Scientist/Entrepeneur