Kevin Bankston: Alright, it is one o’clock so we’re going to get started. Hi, and welcome the New America for today’s event, “What Sci-Fi Futures Can (and Can’t) Teach Us About AI Policy.” I’m Kevin Bankston. I’m the director of New America’s Open Technology Institute and the co-lead of a project called AI Policy Futures that we’re doing in conjunction with our friends at Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination. My co-lead in this project is standing right beside me. He’s Ed Finn, the Director of that center. And I’m going to let him tell you a little bit about our project before we get started with today’s content.
Ed Finn: Thanks, Kevin. Thanks for joining us. So, AI Policy Futures is a research effort to explore the relationship between science fiction around AI and the social imaginaries of AI. What those social measures can teach us about real technology policy today. We seem to tell the same few stories about AI, and they’re not very helpful. They’re stories about killer robots or superintelligence, and we’re talking about that and missing the boat on things like airplanes that are falling out of the sky, and autonomous vehicles and all sorts of things that are in the very near future going to impact our lives in very powerful ways.
So, this project is going to create a taxonomy of different versions of AI, visions of AI, in the global literature of science fiction and see how we can apply that to commission original stories to be published in Slate that will explore real-world, useful fictions about the near future of AI. This is supported by the Hewlett Foundation and Google. We’re really delighted to be able to have this event and to continue this work with all of you. Thank you.
Kevin Bankston: The Sci-Fi Feedback Loop
Kevin Bankston, Miranda Bogen, Rumman Chowdhury, Elana Zeide, and Lindsey Sheppard: AI in Reality
Kanta Dihal: How Sci-Fi Reflects Our AI Hopes and Fears
Madeline Ashby (recorded provocation),
Andrew Hudson, Kanta Dihal, Chris Noessel, Lee Konstantinou, and Damien Williams: AI in Sci-Fi
Chris Noessel: Untold AI – What AI Stories Should We Be Telling Ourselves?
Stephanie Dinkins/Bina48 (recorded provocation),
Ed Finn, Malka Older, Ashkan Soltani, Kristin Sharp, Molly Write Steenson: Bridging AI Fact and Fiction
Ed Finn: I have a couple of closing remarks, and I recognize that I’m the last thing standing between you and our reception.
So, the first thing I’m gonna do is share what one of the…we’re figuring out this project as we go, this AI Policy Futures thing, and we’re continuing to look for new directions to take it, new partners, and new ways to communicate. So, as part of our gathering today we came up with a bunch of ideas for original science fiction stories that we’re going to be commissioning over the next year or so.
But another thing we did is we conducted a bunch of interviews at an event we had at South by Southwest a few months ago. And we have the raw materials for a podcast. And now all we need is for somebody to give us some more money so we can make the podcast. But we did make a teaser for the podcast, which I’m going to play for you, to entice you all to come up with brilliant ways for us to bring this thing to life. So I’m hoping we can play this podcast teaser. If it’s… Maybe my magical powers— [recording starts playing]
So, if you are interested in talking more about that or getting involved in the project in any other way please feel free to chat with me or Kevin.
And I want to close just very briefly. My provocation to you, since you’ve been promised a provocation, is that when we talk about AI we get hung up this word “intelligence,” right. We don’t really know what intelligence is. We’ve never really known. And all of our anxieties about AI are bound up in the way that this opens up the deep, existential of what it is to be human.
And so, the other related word is that word “imagination.” And everything that we’re talking about here is how we can use our imagination to build a better pathway, to chart a better course, around all of the ways that intelligent machines and learning machines are already changing the world. Already deeply implicated in the fabric of our everyday lives.
And so, if we’re going to do anything about AI and developing a better set of approaches to our conversations around AI, policy around AI, we have to start with that word “imagination.” We have to take it on as a question for ourselves, how do we imagine the future? A future where there’s a new mirror. A new set of systems that reflect ourselves back to ourselves. That post the question to us. That throw our anxieties about identity, and belonging, and personhood back at us in all sorts of different ways. Because we can’t help but see ourselves in all of our tools and systems.
So, with that I will thank you once again for joining us, and turn things over to Kevin.
Kevin Bankston: And I will thank you Ed, and Andrew for the trailblazing work y’all have done at the Center for Science and the Imagination to help catalyze and solidify a growing community of practice that is taking science fiction seriously as a tool for thinking about the future of technology and the future of policy. Applied sci-fi, you might call it, or practical sci-fi. Everything we’ve been doing this event, this project, the Sci-Fi House at South by Southwest, has been all about trying to build a community around that idea? And I want to thank first off all of the panelists and speakers for being a part of that community. And I want to thank you the audience for being a part of that community in joining us today. So, thank you, and please enjoy the reception.