Technology is often portrayed as an independent force, driving social and cultural change untethered from the people who created it. In today’s conversations about artificial intelligence, we hear this perspective in the warnings of how these technologies promise to change society (and the humans that happen to be part of it). The dynamics pointing in the other direction—how the particularities of being human shape the AI machinery—usually receive less attention. We know that human fallibility is deeply encoded into any technology, but how do social beliefs and cultural representations shape AI development? Whose desires, fears and aspirations influence how societies relate to or talk about AI technology? How does social inequality leave its imprint on the tools we choose to build?

In the seminar, we scrutinize representations of "intelligent machines", and discuss how memes, literature, gender stereotypes, and colonial histories shape AI and the role it plays in today's society. Conceived as a series of conversations, the seminar brings together experts from across the arts, humanities, and computational sciences to reflect on the social and cultural influences shaping the development of AI technologies.

In this session, we discuss the representation of AI from the angle of communication and design. We have a closer look at the images, narratives memes and metaphors used to portray AI, and aim understand their wider political and ideological implications.

Panellists included:

  • Tania Duarte, Co-Founder and CEO of ‘We and AI’ 
  • Tomasz Hollanek, Research Fellow, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge
  • Nadia Piet, Designer / Researcher / Founder AIxDESIGN
  • Valérie Schafer, Professor in Contemporary European History, University of Luxembourg, C2DH
  • Kaspar Beelen, School of Advanced Study (Chair)
Representations of AI