International Seminar on (De)Coding AI in the Humanities: Prospects and Challenges in Indian, German, and World Literatures and Cultures

Organizer: Banaras Hindu University, India, Mahila Mahavidyalaya in Collaboration with DWIH and Cologne University, Germany

About the Seminar

  • When: 19-20 September 2023
  • Registration Fee: NIL
  • Venue: Mahila Mahavidyalaya, BHU
  • Abstract Submission Deadline: 5th August 2023
  • Intimation of Abstract Acceptance: 10th August 2023
  • Full Paper for Confirmation of Participation: 5th September 2023

List of Speakers

1. Dr Patrick Corbett, Department of English, New York City College of Technology, USA
2. PD Dr Roger Fornoff, German Studies, University of Cologne, Germany
3. Dr Michael Stadler, DAAD Lecturer, JNU, New Delhi
4. Meredith Stinger, Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, USA

When Artificial Intelligence (AI) was first proposed by John McCarthy and his colleagues in the 1950s, it was viewed as an extension of human intelligence. As we move forward into contemporary times, we can see the enormous potential that artificial intelligence represents as an addendum to human intelligence. Nevertheless, this does not come without the risk of being trampled by this elev(alien)ated intelligence in the future. There is a growing awareness that AI does not operate in a vacuum of bias. However, the programmed inequalities and discrimination towards the Black, indigenous and women along with the other biases that it acquires are those that it inherits from its human masters. As a result, this raises the issue of fairness and ethical concerns since it could disproportionately affect humans, especially those who belong to the most vulnerable sections of society. Now, the problem becomes more severe as we are approaching a point where it is becoming more difficult to trace how and why AI is learning what it is learning, also known as the “Black Box Phenomenon.”

It is not necessary to focus solely on this emerging technology’s negative aspects since its benefits are also plentiful. For the first time, humans, who have been the sole bearers of supreme consciousness (rightly or wrongly), can share the course of the future with their brethren. The survival of humans and humanity cannot be assured by looking backwards. Instead, we must work to advance this technology in the future in order to preserve our planet and its species. Therefore, should the proposal to slow down the progress of artificial intelligence be taken into account since it has been put forward by some of the most knowledgeable minds in the world, such as Yuval Noah Harari and Elon Musk? Such dissenting voices emerging from those working on AI implementation suggest a crisis of human(ities) through humanoid robots, an idea that has been around since R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots, 1920), by the Czech writer Karel Čapek, which is credited with introducing the word “robot” to the sci-fi lexicon. As this play envisioned the rise of robots against their human masters, shortly thereafter, in 1927, it was Fritz Lang’s German expressionist masterpiece Metropolis which featured the Maschinemensch (the machine- person). This maschinemensch can deceive others by impersonating another individual and deliberately misleading them. As time passes, the futuristic vision that these sci-fi works depicted back then is beginning to take shape, becoming more tangible as the risks posed by artificial intelligence continue to grow. The possibility of AI posing a threat to all aspects of the human race should be taken into consideration, as we are completely exposed and unprepared when it comes to dealing with its effects.

With the sudden rise of artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT and others, we are seeing what the future of learning may look like. With the complaints of producing fake citations and references to scholarly articles that do not exist, to hallucinating that AI might have written the student papers (there was a shocking incident in the US in which a professor failed his entire class as a result of ChatGPT telling him that AI might be responsible for the writing of these papers), to even positive prompts of real-time language translation and image manipulation, ours is a world that is steadily moving from simulation to stimulation, where we may eventually be unable to distinguish between the real and the fictional.

Thus, a real crisis in humanities is probably on the horizon. AI replaces human roles in the society that raises questions about the future of human(ities). One wonders, what does it mean to be human and what is the role of human(ities) in the age of AI saturated society? Literature and cinema have imagined various probabilities of what the symbiotic relationship with this technology may look like. While Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun (2001) depicts a domesticated AI which serves its owner’s well-being, Stanley Kubrick’s depiction of HAL-9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) represents a resolute AI devoted to following the orders of its masters irrespective of the consequences. On one side, Ian McEwan in Machine Like Me (2019) creates an alternative past (a glimpse of the probable future where we will reach), depicting 1980s
London where humans can fall in love with an android, the film Ex Machina (2014) illustrates how AI could manipulate human emotions as a weapon to manipulate them. In the Indian context, AI is yet to be the main-stream narrative. Yet there are works like, Tanuj Solanki’s The Machine is Learning (2020) provides ‘a deep dive into the world of artificial intelligence and the lives of people around it’ and S.B. Divya’s Machinhood (2021) that deals with machines as humans and humans as machine. Indian films using AI are S. Shankar’s Enthiram or Robot (2010) in which Rajinikant plays the role of a scientist and a humanoid, Satyajit Ray and Sujoy Ghosh’s short film Anukul (2017) represents AI in the context of socio-political and economic implications. Further, R.B. Poduval’s Android Kunjapan version 5.25 begins with a quote from Stephen Hawking, ‘Artificial Intelligence will destroy human civilisation’.

Thus, purpose of this seminar is to integrate discussions of the humanities and Artificial Intelligence into an integrated framework by examining how the humanities can benefit from metamorphosizing themselves to utilize the potential of this technology, as well as how AI interacts with intersecting and emerging relationships between various disciplines of the humanities. It also focuses on the role of AI in different literatures and socio-cultural contexts and provides a comparative perspective. This seminar invites scholars to explore and evaluate the issues from both the perspective of humanity and the stream of humanities and to consider how the future shall be imagined by working in collaboration with artificial intelligence.

The possible themes that this seminar wishes to explore are (but are not limited to):

  • Memory and AI
  • Emotions and AI
  • Medicine and AI
  • Anthropocene and AI
  • Human/Nonhuman Agencies and AI
  • AI and Ethics
  • AI in Arts and Culture
  • Videogames and AI
  • Fashion and AI
  • Foreign Language Teaching and AI
  • AI in Language/Literature/Cinema (English, German and Hindi)
  • AI and Gender/Sexuality
  • AI and Social Justice
  • AI and Personal Data
  • AI and Care/Hospitality
  • AI and Medical Humanities
  • AI and Digital Humanities
  • AI and Environmental Humanities
  • AI and Posthumanism
  • AI and Post-truth
  • AI and the Future of Human(ities)
  • AI and its Discontents

Interested academicians/scholars are invited to submit 200 words abstract to

Prof. Rita Singh,
Principal, MMV, BHU

Organizing Committee
Internal Convenors: Ms Shipra Tholia, Dr Pravin K Patel, Dr Amar Singh

External Convenor/Organizing Secretary: Dr Amisha Jain, Head of Regional Office, India and South Asia, University of Cologne

Student Convenors: Ms Sakshi Srivasatava & Ms Anwesha Adhikary

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