What’s the Point of Social Ontology?
PhD Workshop at the University of Warwick
18th June 2014, 10am – 5:30pm
Ontology can often prove a contested and confusing issue within social research. Everyone has an ontology, explicit or otherwise, but the process of drawing this out and thinking through its implications for research can often be a confusing part of the PhD process. This participatory workshop explores the practical significance of ontological questions for social research, inviting participants to reflect on their own research projects in a collaborative and supportive context. It aims to help participants negotiate the sometimes abstruse matter of social ontology, linking theory to practice in the context of their own research projects. The main focus throughout the day will be on how ontological questions are encountered in social research, the questions posed by such encounters and how engaging explicitly with social ontology can often help resolve such issues.
All participants will offer a brief (5 minute) presentation of their research project and the ontological questions which have been or are expected to be encountered within it. Those still early in the PhD process are welcome to substitute this for a discussion of their research interests and potential project. We’d like to ask all participants to reflect in advance on their own social ontology and how it pertains to their project. Uncertainty here is not a problem, in fact it will be a useful contribution to discussions on the day!
We also invite two more substantial presentations (10 mins) for the first afternoon session, reflecting on your engagement with ontological questions in your own project in order to help begin a practical engagement which encompasses the entire group. If you would be interested in leading the discussion in this way then please make this known when registering.
To register please contact email@example.com with a brief description of your research and your interest in social ontology (500 words or less) by May 15th. The event is free but places are limited. Travel bursaries are available, please ask for more details.
The latest volume of the Post-human Society and the Future of Humanity book series has been published and is available for purchase from Routledge. Edited by Margaret Archer and Andrea Maccarini, this compilation of essays “asks whether there exists an essence exclusive to human beings despite their continuous enhancement – a nature that can serve to distinguish humans from artificially intelligent robots, now and in the foreseeable future.”
Considering what might qualify as such an essence, this volume demonstrates that the abstract question of ‘essentialism’ underpins a range of social issues that are too often considered in isolation and usually justify ‘robophobia’, rather than ‘robophilia’, in terms of morality, social relations and legal rights. Any defence of human exceptionalism requires clarity about what property(ies) ground it and an explanation of why these cannot be envisaged as being acquired (eventually) by AI robots. As such, an examination of the conceptual clarity of human essentialism and the role it plays in our thinking about dignity, citizenship, civil rights and moral worth is undertaken in this volume. What is Essential to Being Human? will appeal to scholars of social theory and philosophy with interests in human nature, ethics and artificial intelligence.
With emerging technologies now widely assumed to be calling into question assumptions about human beings and their place within the world, and computational innovations of machine learning leading some to claim we are coming ever closer to the long-sought artificial general intelligence, it defends humanity with the argument that technological ‘advances’ introduced artificially into some humans do not annul their fundamental human qualities. Against the challenge presented by the possibility that advanced artificial intelligence will be fully capable of original thinking, creative self-development and moral judgement and therefore have claims to legal rights, the authors advance a form of ‘essentialism’ that justifies providing a ‘decent minimum life’ for all persons. As such, while the future of the human is in question, the authors show how dispensing with either the category itself or the underlying reality is a less plausible solution than is often assumed.
1. Being Human (or What?) in the Digital Matrix Land: The Construction of the Humanted – Pierpaolo Donati
2. Being Human as an Option: How to Rescue Personal Ontology from Transhumanism, and (Above All) Why Bother – Andrea M. Maccarini
3. Perplexity Logs: On Routinized Certainty Work and Social Consequences of Seeking Advice from an Artificial Intelligence – Emmanuel Lazega
4. Artificial Intelligence and the Challenge of Social Care in Aging Societies: Who or What Will Care for Us in the Future? – Jamie Morgan
Director of the Centre for Social Ontology, professor Ismael Al-Amoudi, recently appeared on Xerfi Canal to discuss the risks of techno-totalitarian drift in digital enterprises. The video can be viewed here (in French):
On January 14, 2021, Professor Ismael Al-Amoudi presented a guest lecture at the University of Bristol, entitled “From Artificial Intelligence to Artificial Irresponsibility: Deep machine learning in organisations”.
Professor Gazi Islam gave an invited presentation entitled “Ritual, Communitas and Critique: Theorizing Events as Moments of Organizing” to the HEC Montréal Department of Management, on the 26th of November, 2020. Details can be found here.
The Father Oreste Benzi Foundation “promotes research, studies and opportunities for analysis and discussion on the needs of suffering, marginalised and disadvantaged people,” inspired by the work of Father Oreste Benzi, priest of the Diocese of Rimini.
In autumn of 2020, professor Ismael Al-Amoudi gave an inaugural lecture to Masters students of Energy Management and Purchasing Management at the Grenoble Ecole de Management, entitled “Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility as Buzzwords?” The presentation slides are available upon request.