The last few months have been tumultuous for all of us, and we've been working hard not only to 'pivot' our output, but to sustain the wellbeing of our committee members as well. This mail is intended to bring you up to speed on our activities since January and our plans for the future.
On the 29th of January we were pleased to host Dr Beth Singler (Cambridge), presenting a seminar titled Blessed by the Algorithm: AI Teleology and Popular Discourse. Dr Singler has since published this work in the journal AI & Society as: '“Blessed by the algorithm”: Theistic conceptions of artificial intelligence in online discourse' and it is available online.
Our second event of the term on 13 February was a seminar given by Dr David Sargeant (Plymouth) titled The Work of Art of History, considering depictions of work in near-future fictions written in the contemporary period.
Dr Amanda Rees was invited to present her paper Does it matter if it isn't real?: Organising Speculative Imaginaries on 27 February. Futures Thinking committee members Chelsea Haith and Dan Holloway were to present their research done during the Oxford Science and Ideas festival on the project The Noise That Keeps Me Awake At Night. Both of these events were cancelled in solidarity with the UCU strikes.
Here's why: Doing Less Work.
The UK entered lockdown a week after Hilary Term ended. We had planned to host a screening of our Speculation & Percolation project at Wolfson College in May, paired with a Q&A about the process.
All seven episodes are available to view online:
Ep. 1: Narrative, Fiction and 3D Printed Teddy Bears
Ep. 2: From a Plant Lover's Perspective
Ep. 3: Neuroscience and Graphic Novels
Ep. 4: A Labour Economist Reads Climate Fiction
Ep. 5: Contradiction and Zombies
Ep. 6: French Cinema, Effective Altruism and Prehistoric Sloths
Ep. 7: Identity and Narratives of AI
During the term of lockdown we stayed committed to engaging with the public, and to this end Futures Thinking paired with Oxford's award-winning Jericho Comedy to produce an audio-visual project: Will Machines Make Us Laugh? Comedian-Philosopher Alex Farrow interviewed five national and local comedians for this project, exploring questions such as: Would it be ethical to use an AI to write a comedy stand-up set? How does the authenticity of a set contribute to its humour? What would an AI even joke about?
All five episodes of this series were launched in the week 15-19 June and you can view them all online here:
Ep. 1 - Olga Koch
Ep. 2 - Daman Bamrah
Ep. 3 - Chelsea Birkby
Ep. 4 - Ahir Shah
Ep. 5 - Dan Squire
Looking forward to October 2020, we'll be releasing our podcast Narrative Futures, featuring readings and interviews with authors, followed by short writing prompts that listeners can respond to. Guest authors on the podcast include Tade Thompson, Mohale Mashigo, Sami Shah, Lauren Beukes, EJ Swift and Jared Shurin. We'll keep you updated when the podcast is launched!
We are also working on a multi-disciplinary project in partnership with colleagues at the University of the Arts, Berlin, and the Royal Northern College of Music, and we hope to have tangible output to share with you in the next year. For now, let us say that it is exciting, musical, and asks difficult questions of our present pandemic experiences.
We welcome blog posts from guest bloggers and if you have an event or project you'd like to pitch us for Michaelsmas 2020 do please get in touch.
We are going to take a break over the summer and will check in only periodically. If you have any queries or comments you're welcome to email us.
Wishing you all a safe and healthy summer,
Futures Thinking is a TORCH funded research network at the University of Oxford
Watch new episodes of the Speculation & Percolation project weekly Jan-Mar 2020