Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Update: "A Faustian Exchange"

This appears to be an update of an earlier post. My thanks to Jason Borenstein for sending this my way. - Ken

AI & SOCIETY: Celebrating the 25th birthday anniversary

Call for Papers

Theme: ‘A Faustian Exchange: What is to be human in the era of Ubiquitous Technology?’

As part of the celebration of the 25th birthday anniversary of AI&Society in 2012, we are planning three inter-linked activities: a Special Birthday volume; Academic Workshop/Conference in Cambridge, and a Public installation event at the Dana Centre, Science Museum, London. In the age of pervasive and streaming technologies, we get a deep sense that the more we get caught up in a process of self-commodification, the more we are threatened with the loss of our existential autonomy. We have become accustomed to perceiving and thinking in singularities and individualism, rooted deeply into the techno-industrial culture of competitiveness and the possibilities inherent in technology. Since its inception, the theme of Judgment to Calculation has been central to the ongoing debates in the journal. In the early days of AI, Prof. Weizenbaum in his seminal book, Computer Power and Human Reason (1976), warned us against instrumental reason and giving machines the responsibility for making genuinely human choices.

There is a legitimate concern that further advances in pervasive technology could create profound social disruptions and even have dangerous consequences, forcing humans to learn to live with machines which increasingly copy human behaviours. But how is it possible to reconcile the widening gaps between constructed reality and the basic reality of the human condition? The challenge is to recalibrate the spiral of Judgment to Calculation, moving forwards from Calculation to Judgment. We feel that the time has now come to square the circle and provide a forum for a debate on the theme of ‘Faustian Exchange: what it is to be human in Ubiquitous Technology’, reflecting the complex, uncertain, multicultural and interconnected world we live in.

Issues and Concerns
Pervasive technology has great potential and possibilities in many realms of human society, including medicine, healthcare, agriculture, transportation, education, commerce, arts and culture, scientific research and discovery. However, we should remain vigilant about the profound implications of the mediating technologies on human life.
  • What are the consequences of man’s reliance on technology in deciding and pursuing what is truly valuable?
  • What is it to be human when being mediated by technology in contrast to how we are in the presence of others?
  • How do we make our presence felt in the wilderness of the post-human and the extended mind?
  • How does this new pervasive technology affect society? How do we interact with the technologies embedded in our world? Have we gone beyond the frontiers of control?
  • How do we deal with the dilemma that singularity represents not simply the passing of humankind from center stage, but that it contradicts our most deeply held notions of being?
  • A robot for granny – Is there a technocratic fix for every social “problem”?
  • What would it be like designing technological systems for nurturing the well-being of human kind?
  • What can arts, literature, music and culture contribute to the debate on Faustian Exchange?
  • Can the sorcerer’s apprentice shed some light on increasing preoccupation of technologising the academy and turning universities into theme parks of extended websites?
  • How do we transcend the ‘bipolar tendency’ of the market culture, and ‘deal with the swings between prophesies of doom that serve only to paralyze us further, and the unbridled consumerism that makes things worse’?
  • Does the recent financial crisis at last make us see through the myth of the culture of ‘anti-intellectualism’ and the ‘end of history’?
  • What have we gained and what have we lost in the Faustian Exchange? Have we already bargained our soul for the seductive power of instrumental technology?
This special 25th anniversary issue of AI&Society will explore ways to optimize technology for society beyond the question of could we and should we. We welcome contributions for this special volume, and look forward to receiving expressions of interest, position papers/ abstracts, full papers:

Call for papers: 5 October 2010          
Abstracts: 25 January 2011 (approx 500 words)
Full articles (upto 6000 words): 15 July 2011    
Publication: July/August 2012

Karamjit S Gill
Editor, AI&Society: journal of knowledge, culture ad communication

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