Dystopian Futures of the Past: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its Social Impact through Film and Literature

This event is designed to encourage conversations about how artificial intelligence may impact our life and world in the years to come.

The idea is not to paint a dystopian picture of the future. For this reason, the event involves the screening of an old rather than a current movie, many of whose “predictions” have turned out to be far off the mark or even ridiculous.

The aim is, rather, to explore how movies and literature can serve as reservoirs of ideas for our thought about current or future trends, and to explore – as an example and the focus of the event – how such thinking can help us get a better grip on A.I.’s consequences.

Event Information

September 13, 2019, 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM

New Delhi
Organizer: DWIH New Delhi

Speakers

Dr Isabella Hermann

Scientific Coordinator
IAG “Responsibility: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence”
Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences

Dr. Isabella Hermann is a political scientist and discourse analyst. She explores how artificial intelligence is framed in the discourse and how the use of AI systems affects society. Having always been fascinated by the societal effects of new technologies, she also publishes and talks about science fiction and politics; she is jury member of the international Berlin Sci-fi Filmfest. Isabella currently acts as research coordinator of the interdisciplinary research group “Responsibility: Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence” at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Berlin. The project examines the ethical and legal challenges associated with the use of AI systems and makes recommendations to ensure that the focus of technological development is on humans.

Artificial Intelligence - Not Magic, But Technology!
The science-fiction genre shows us a fictional scientific/technological progress of the future and its effects on our way of life. Remarkably, especially in films, this future is rather negative and dystopian. Particularly when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of conscious systems and robots, the technology is often presented as almighty, mystical and magical. However, since AI is not magic but mathematics and data, science-fiction films don’t seem to be a good basis for a public discourse on AI. On the one hand, they neglect the chances of the technology such as improvements in health care or optimisation of resource consumption. On the other hand, fictional conscious AI systems and robots which either plan to extinguish humanity or dissolve into self-doubt, conceal the real challenges associated with the use of the technology like discrimination and data bias, surveillance states as well as digital capitalism.
Dr Isabella Hermann

Dr Veena Hariharan

Assistant Professor
Centre of Cinema Studies
School of Art and Aesthetics
JNU, Delhi

Dr Veena Hariharan is Associate Professor, Cinema Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is a fellow at the Cluster of Excellence, Temporal Communities at the Freie University, Berlin. Her essays and articles on home movies, documentary, and non-fiction cinema have appeared in anthologies and journals. She is interested in the relationship between nature and technology in cinema and new media, and her most recent work on the environment, shikar and hunting films is included in the Blackwell Anthology of Indian Film (forthcoming).

Not Quite Human: Nature, Technology and AI Films
If artificial intelligence is the holy grail of science and technology, then how does the medium of cinema that lies at the intersection of art, science and technology represent artificial intelligence? Walter Benjamin, reflecting on the new media of cinema at the turn of the last century, emphasized the notion of play/ interplay between nature and humanity as a function of the technological arts. How do A.I. films across time, from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) to Roberto Rodriguez’ Alita: Battle Angel (2019), posit the relationship between humanity, the natural world and technology? The talk will address the questions related to the borders between humans and artificially created sentient beings, even as they blur in the cinematic sci-fi universe.
Dr Veena Hariharan