Week One: Where Are We Now? Machine 'Intelligences’ in Everyday Life
While the presence and use of intelligent or sentient machines remains largely unrealized in current societies, there has been a dramatic transformation in the human/machine relationship. This week we explore the research regarding machine-human interactions, focusing especially on new technologies like smart devices.
Week Two: Help! A Machine Stole My Job!
19th century writers like Marx foretold a society of ease and leisure emerging as machine technologies evolved to replace human manual labour for the most dangerous and taxing jobs. This week we explore these prognostications and contrast them with contemporary fears about the structural unemployment that is expected to result from the prospective shift to intelligent machines in a variety of professions including education, law and medicine.
Week Three: Case Study: The Military
The military is an early adopter of so-called ‘smart machines’. This week we will look at the long-standing military interest in developing machine intelligences capable of waging war. This story begins with smart weapons like guided missiles and bombs, and proceeds to discuss the use of drones and other unmanned devices. We will conclude this week with a look toward the technologies under development, including robotic ‘warriors’ capable of limited decision-making in combat situations.
Week Four: Case Study: Care-taking
It is perhaps indicative both of the persistently low status and pay awarded to the areas of life traditionally assigned to women, and of the predispositions of researchers and investors, that care-taking is a major area of research in robotics. This week we examine efforts to replace or supplement human care-taking with robots for both young children and the elderly, especially elderly adults afflicted with dementia and related diseases of aging.
Week Five: The *Other * Sexual Revolution
Alongside the military, sex work is an area of life in which robots are under enthusiastic development. This week we explore the current state of robots and machine intelligences in sex work, including the phenomenon of 'Real Dolls' and efforts to create robots life-like enough to use in sexual encounters. Moral and ethical issues abound.
Week Six: Whither the Future?
This week we explore the ethical and political implications of the creation of machine intelligences. We will discuss the legal status of ‘non-human persons’ and consider to what degree machine intelligences will fit this definition. We will also begin to extrapolate the consequences of incorporating intelligent machines into our societies by looking at the ways in which human societies have already been influenced and transformed by machine technologies.