Join us on Tuesday 9th October 9.30-10.30 in FASS Meeting Room 1 for the first Breakfast Briefing of the new academic year.
Associate Professor in Media and Communication
Deputy Head (Research), School of Social Sciences
University of Auckland
New Zealand / Aotearoa
Title: “Evocative stories or ‘unhinged’ discourse? Popular media coverage of artificial intelligence”
There is justifiable concern among various commentators that popular media outlets present the public with misleading and exaggerated visions of both the promises and perils of AI technology. At the same time, public interest in this increasingly important but technically complex topic depends heavily on the circulation of accessible, attention-grabbing stories capable of capturing the imagination. In this presentation, I look at three examples of recent AI-related phenomena that have been successful in generating public attention: Google/DeepMind’s AlphaGo, which successfully defeated the world champion Go player in a highly publicised best of five match; Hanson Robotics’ Sophia, which acquired international celebrity status and was endowed with ‘citizenship’ by Saudi Arabia; and, finally, Boston Dynamics’ suite of biomorphic robots designed to showcase the field of dexterous robotics and which, while their actual status as AI is contentious, nonetheless evoke the futuristic spectre of embodied artificial intelligence. While there are well-founded concerns that the public is not well-served by media sensationalism surrounding AI, I argue that it is important in any case to develop a critical appreciation for why such stories gain traction and where their attention-grabbing and evocative power lies. This, I suggest, is a useful exercise when it comes to any consideration of better and more useful stories about AI that the public should be exposed to.