Histories of Artificial Intelligence: A Genealogy of Power

The University of Cambridge is hosting a Mellon Sawyer Seminar entitled 'Histories of AI: A Genealogy of Power' from May 2020 to April 2021. The Seminar will be co-hosted by the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, and the Faculty of English.

Digital Democracies Group Director Dr. Wendy Chun will be giving a keynote speech in July 2020. 

Sawyer Seminars support comparative research on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments. This Seminar aims to develop an interpretive community capable of offering a structural, historical perspective on the promises and problematics of AI and machine learning. This new community will include scholars from a variety of fields including historians of science and technology, and scholars from decolonial studies and critical theory, such as race, gender, and disability studies. We will engage in critical and comparative research, from antiquity to the present, on the historical and cultural sources of contemporary developments in AI technologies to investigate their entanglement in systems of politics, power and control. Four themes will guide our considerations: hidden labour, encoded behaviour, cognitive injustice and disingenuous rhetoric.

The Seminar's activities include:

  • A week long Summer School, hosted at the University of Cambridge from 12 to 18 July 2020
  • A monthly Reading Group, hosted at the University of Cambridge but accessible online for international participants
  • A one day Graduate Winter School, hosted at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Four Public Events in Spring 2021 on the Seminar themes, held in Cambridge, London, and at Columbia University
  • A concluding Symposium for core Seminar members, held at the University of Cambridge in April 2021


Learn more about this 18-month Sawyer Seminar on the University of Cambridge website