Conference Grants: William Morgan at SLSA 2022

14 Oct, 2022

Conference Grants: William Morgan at SLSA 2022

William Morgan received a Fall 2021 BCNM Conference Grant to help cover his costs for attending the 2022 annual meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts​ in West Lafayette, Indiana. Morgan presented at the roundtable of “Are You R(obotic)? Can Visiting an AI Mind Tell Us Anything About Our Own?” Read more about his experience in his own words below.

On October 6, 2022, I traveled to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana to present at the 2022 Society For Literature, Science, and The Arts (SLSA) conference. This year the conference’s theme was “Reading Minds: Artificial Intelligence, Neural Networks, And The Reading Human” which sought to engage “scholars of literature, science, and the arts in questions pertaining to the nature of reading” in light of changes provoked by “machine learning, natural language processing, and imaging” as well as how “the pivot to remote work and social distancing have led to an augmented virtual experience with the attendant consequences of new patterns of reading and an accumulation of data from that engagement.”

At the conference, I spoke as part of the roundtable entitled “Are You R(obotic)? Can Visiting an AI Mind Tell Us Anything About Our Own?”. Our roundtable sought to investigate a trend gaining steam in science fiction literature of first-“person” robotic narrators. Works addressed included Capek’s R.U.R. (1921), Asimov’s I Robot (1940-50), Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?/Blade Runner (1968), Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (2013), Wells’ The Murderbot Diaries (2017-18), Newitz’ Autonomous (2018), Martine's Teixcalaan books (2019/2021) and Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun (2021). In my presentation, I argued that the simple addition of technological enhancements (like a heads-up display) to a narrator’s perceptive senses does not adequately “visit” the mind of an AI. Instead drawing upon A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine, I argued that AI minds that remain “aliens” such as the mind of the city in Martine’s book portray a more accurate depiction of artificial thought, an inassimilable difference.

The conference was also a wonderful opportunity to meet, listen and talk with other scholars in my field. I heard a wonderful talk by a young games studies scholar, Doug Stark from UNC on games as artificial intelligence and at the banquet, I was fortunate to sit and dialogue with Doug as well as with Professors Mike Hill and Shane Denson from SUNY Albany and Stanford, respectively. During that time we spoke about crucial questions surrounding AI but in an interdisciplinary way that felt unique to the SLSA environment.

I am grateful to the Berkeley Center for New Media for the provision of funds that made my attending this conference possible.