Category Archives: Events

IACR Conference 2021 – online, September 20-24

The 2021 Annual Conference of the International Association for Critical Realism (#IACR2021) will be held online this year. Hosted by Rhodes University and the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa), it will take place via Zoom from the 20th to the 24th of September. Details of the event, including subthemes this year centred around the unifying theme of emancipation, can be found here.

What is Essential to Being Human? Can AI Robots Not Share It?

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.

Chapters

1. Introduction – Margaret S. Archer and Andrea M. Maccarini

2. On Robophilia and Robophobia – Douglas V. Porpora

3. Sapience and Sentience: A Reply to Porpora – Margaret S. Archer

4. Relational Essentialism – Pierpaolo Donati

5. Artificial Intelligence: Sounds like a friend, looks like a friend, is it a friend? – Jamie Morgan

6. Growing Up in a World of Platforms: What Changes and What Doesn’t? – Mark Carrigan

7. On Macropolitics of Knowledge for Collective Learning in the Age of AI-Boosted Big Relational Tech – Emmanuel Lazega and Jaime Montes-Lihn

8. Can AIs do Politics? – Gazi Islam

9. Inhuman Enhancements? When Human Enhancements Alienate from Self, Others, Society and Nature – Ismael Al-Amoudi

10. The Social Meanings of Perfection: Human Self-Understanding in a Post-Human Society – Andrea M. Maccarini

Post-Human Futures: Human Enhancement, Artificial Intelligence and Social Theory

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 Mark Carrigan and Doug Porpora, this volume “engages with post-humanist and transhumanist approaches to present an original exploration of the question of how humankind will fare in the face of 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.

Chapters

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

5. Why Should Enhanced and Unenhanced Humans Care for Each Other? – Ismael Al-Amoudi and Gazi Islam

6. Can Humans and AI Robots be Friends? – Margaret S. Archer

7. Humanity’s End: Where Will We Be in a Million Years? – Douglas V. Porpora

Margaret Archer joint-recipient of the International Oreste Benzi Award 2020

Professor Margaret Archer has been jointly awarded the 2020 International Oreste Benzi Award for her work against human trafficking. Archer’s ‘Housing, Help and Hospitality’ charity for trafficked women and their children was particularly lauded in the award announcement. A detailed account of the work of this charity 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.

Leadership, Organizations and COVID-19 – Gazi Islam, NUI Galway

Professor Gazi Islam gave an invited presentation on “Leadership, Organizations and COVID-19” to the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway, on the 12th of October, 2020. The below recording and summary of the event are taken from the event page.

On 12 October, the Whitaker Institute hosted a live webinar titled Leadership, Organizations and COVID-19. The webinar discussed the challenges of being a leader against a backdrop of radical uncertainty including the need to make rapid decisions. Available information changes fast, and is often based on contested evidence. Meanwhile anxious employees and stakeholders seek guidance and some sense of certainty amid the challenges.

These challenges have impacts on people’s lives. In politics, the ambiguity accompanying Covid-19 continues to be exploited by populist leaders worldwide. In business, the corporate social responsibility initiatives that many have celebrated over the past ten years, are now being tested to their limits. Demands of those with short-term, profit-driven interests are pitted against longer-term concerns including the health and well-being of employees, customers and other stakeholders. In the public sector including education, the implicit contract of public service is likewise being challenged, as traditional funding sources dry up.

In the event, established leadership theories were also questioned. For some, the pandemic marks the end of the traditional, masculine model of leadership in which power ought to be centralized, and decision-making unilateral. Instead, we see examples of strong feminine leaders coming to the fore, with collaborative and empathetic approaches winning out. For others, such claims of a paradigm shift are premature.

Image via Derek Bruff, CC BY 2.0

Place-Based Economic Recovery Network (PERN) Webinar Series and BEIS Submission

Professor Jamie Morgan, together with Dr. Thomas Haines-Doran, Professor Andrew Brown, and Professor Gary Dymski (all University of Leeds), and Dr. Richard Whittle (Manchester Metropolitan University), recently submitted an inquiry into post-pandemic economic growth to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee. This submission is reproduced on the Yorkshire Universities Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) network site here.

These scholars offer expert guidance to local authorities as part of the West Yorkshire ‘Place-Based Economic Recovery Network’ (PERN), with the aim of shaping the economic recovery strategy for the region. Initial webinar discussions and presentations took place in July 2020. Details of these webinars can be found here.

Image via Frank Pickavant, CC BY 2.0


Common good in a world of social distancing – Gazi Islam, Research Group on Collaborative Spaces

Professor Gazi Islam gave an invited presentation on “Common good in a world of social distancing” to the Research Group on Collaborative Spaces (RGCS), on the 19th of May, 2020.

Here is the abstract taken from the event page:

What is the space enacted in the covid world? What are our new gestures? What does our workspace look like? What will it look like in the post-covid world? What in the spacing of our security we produce collectively?

In the context of this third RGCS Open Seminar coordinated by Albane Grandazzi (GEM & Ecole Polytechnique), a presentation about space and spacing of the covid and post-covid world will be offered.