The Humanities in Technology: What Kind of World Do We Want?

Wiley Humanities Festival_400x220 As the world becomes increasingly reliant on the work of artificial intelligence, machines, and automated learning, where does that leave the Humanities? How can we use these technological tools to inform Humanities research without compromising the necessary human contributions to these fields?

Wiley is one of the world’s largest and innovative publishers of academic research, at the forefront of the way in which research is performed and disseminated. The Humanities team at Wiley have been focusing on the changes and developments in technology that allow us to discover, communicate, research, and interpret at unprecedented rates and with unprecedented depth.

Machine-learning and AI algorithms are becoming ever more commonplace within research, and are beginning to find their uses within the broad scope of Humanities scholarship. At its most ambitious, AI aims to equal, if not outstrip, human intelligence. AI researchers speculate about the possibility of AI even transcending human intelligence. But where does this ambition leave the people at the heart of the Humanities? After all, these are disciplines that embody the peak of human creativity; philosophy, art, language, literature. Subjects which have, traditionally, been thought of as pure expressions of human nature at its finest. Cold science versus warm imagination.

Considering the role of AI helps us reframe this debate through the lens of using scientific techniques to enhance our understanding of the Humanities, to enhance the ways in which we can learn and the extent to which we can learn. AI is moving from a purely scientific remit to something broader, more fluid, more intuitive. As the technology grows, so does the capacity for application in qualitative research topics as well as quantitative.

As much as Humanities needs this new technology, the technology also needs the Humanities. AI developments will rely increasingly on language and communication, and in turn this requires an ethical examination of the complex issues surrounding the proliferation and integration into human society of an intelligence potentially greater than our own. We will need to assess, debate, and scrutinize AI applications from the angle of philosophy, morality, and ethics.

So how do we utilise and integrate this technology successfully into our Humanities research? How do we prepare from the enormous changes, benefits, and concerns that come with such a radical shift in how we understand and analyse Humanities subjects – how we understand and analyse ourselves?

Our webinar on November 14th will focus on three primary areas within this broader question:

    • What field of humanities would most benefit from AI algorithms
    • Can machines extract meaning from texts better than humans?
    • And as AI starts interpreting text/data, what ethical concerns does it raise?

 

Chaired by Kate McKellar, Senior Publishing Manager for Humanities journals at Wiley, she will be joined by: Professor Melissa Terras, Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute and Professor of Digital Cultural Heritage at the University of Edinburgh; Dr Patricia Murrieta-Flores, Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities at Lancaster University and Co-Director of their Digital Humanities Hub; Raymond Abruzzi, Publisher for the Wiley Digital Archives programme.

Click here to sign up for the free webinar.

SJP Special Issue: The Lives of Human Animals

The Southern Journal of Philosophy has just published an annual Spindel Supplement on animalism and a new theory of personal identity. The problem of personal identity is one of the most bewitching puzzles in all of philosophy. Consider how much each of us changes during our lifetimes. In so many ways—biologically, psychologically, socially, physically—you are today very different from the person you were last year or twenty years ago or on the day of your birth. And yet just one person has persisted through these changes. The first facet of the problem of personal identity focuses our attention on this question: what exactly are the conditions under which beings like you and me persist through time and change?

Until quite recently, most philosophers subscribed to the answers to these questions advocated by the seventeenth-century British philosopher, John Locke. Locke held that our fundamental nature is given by our status as self-conscious, rational agents (“persons”) and that the conditions under which we persist through time and change are thus to be accounted for in terms of psychological continuity. Central to this view is a sharp distinction between the person and her animal body.

But today’s Lockeans face a powerful new challenge to the distinction underlying their core commitments. According to the view known as animalism, there is no distinction to be drawn between human persons and their animal bodies. You do not “have” a body in the sense that you are one thing and the animal located where you are is something else. Rather, on this view, human persons just are their animal bodies: the primate located where you are is you.

Though Aristotelian in spirit, animalism is a relative latecomer to the debate over personal identity, having been articulated and defended only within the past twenty-five years or so. During these first two and a half decades of work, advocates of the view sought mainly to specify and defend its central claims and to understand its relation to the Lockean opposition. While highly important work along these lines continues to be done, a second, overlapping wave of work on animalism seems now to be emerging. This new wave is beginning to broaden animalism’s import beyond metaphysics and philosophy of mind into a diverse array of fields and topics, including ethics, philosophy of language, conjoined twinning, epistemology, evolutionary theory, philosophy of religion, death, and so on.

The guiding aim of the thirty-second annual Spindel Conference on “The Lives of Human Animals” (University of Memphis, September 26–28, 2013) was to spotlight and facilitate this second wave of work by providing a forum in which metaphysicians and philosophers of mind working on animalism were brought together with philosophers who are presently engaged in pertinent debates in other areas of philosophy. The Spendel conference and supplementary issue were organized by Stephen Blatti, former SJP editor and associate professor of philosophy at the University of Memphis.

Read the full issue here!