Narratives and Artificial Intelligence

23 January 2018, 17:00 - 19:00

Seminar room SG1, Alison Richard Building

In collaboration with the Centre for the Future of Intelligence

Stephen Cave (Executive Director Leverhulme CFI)
Hopes and Fears for AI: Four Dichotomies

Sarah Dillon (CFI)
Displaying Gender

Kanta Dihal (CFI)

Beth Singler (CFI)
AI and Film

Chair: Satinder Gill (CIPN)


Hopes and Fears for AI: Four Dichotomies

Rarely has a technology arrived more pre-loaded with associations than the intelligent machine. We categorise those associations into four dichotomies of hopes and fears:

  • Ease / Obsolescence
  • Dominance / Subjugation
  • Gratification / Alienation
  • Immortality / Inhumanity

Stephen Cave is Executive Director of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, Senior Research Associate in the Faculty of Philosophy, and Fellow of Hughes Hall, at the University of Cambridge. Stephen earned a PhD in philosophy from Cambridge, then joined the British Foreign Office, where he spent a decade as a policy advisor and diplomat. His research interests currently focus on the nature, portrayal and governance of AI. 

Displaying Gender

This paper will take a brief interdisciplinary and intersectorial look at the displaying and enacting of gender in artificial intelligence technology and the narratives surrounding.
Films: Ex Machina, Conceiving Ada.
Novels: M. John Harrison’s Empty Space. 

Sarah Dillon is University Lecturer in Literature and Film in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge. She is author of The Palimpsest: Literature, Criticism, Theory (2007) and Deconstruction, Feminism, Film (2018). Sarah is a Senior Research Fellow at CFI, where she is co-Project Lead on the AI Narratives project, with the Royal Society. Sarah is a public advocate for the importance of the Arts and Humanities and broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4. 


Personhood has been attributed to objects from cars to computers to the Berlin Wall; the latter has even been married. At the same time, some humans have been denied personhood. This talk will explore the issue of personhood in the age of artificial intelligence, with the two robot figures of Sophia and Pepper as key protagonists… or objects of investigation.
TV series and films: Humans (UK)/Real Humans (Sweden); Ex Machina; 

 Kanta Dihal is the Postdoctoral Research Assistant on the AI Narratives project, and the Research Project Coordinator of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. In her research she explores the public understanding of AI as constructed by fictional and nonfictional narratives. She has recently submitted her DPhil thesis in science communication at the University of Oxford, titled ‘The Stories of Quantum Physics.

AI and Film

Dr Beth Singler will talk about the series of four short documentaries she is making on AI and robotics at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, with help from the CFI, Arm, and Little Dragon Films. She will show the first half of Pain in the Machine, the first in the series and the winner of the 2017 AHRC Best Research Film of the Year award. She will discuss how the dissemination of accounts of artificial intelligence can rely on dominant narratives and she will reflect on science, fiction, her films, and their role in public engagement.
Pain in the Machine:
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Beth Singler is the Research Associate on the “Human Identity in an age of Nearly-Human Machines” project at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, where she is exploring the social and religious implications of advances in Artificial Intelligence and robotics. As an associate research fellow at the CFI she is collaborating on the Narratives of AI project, which is running in partnership with the Royal Society. Beth is an experienced social and digital anthropologist.


Satinder Gill is a Research Affiliate with the Music Faculty, based with the Centre for Music and Science. She is author of Tacit Engagement: Beyond Interaction (2015), editor of a forthcoming book on The Relational Interface: Where Art, Science, and Technology Meet (2018), and member of the Editorial Board of the AI & Society Journal since its establishment in 1987. 


Open to all.  No registration required
Part of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Performance Network (CIPN), Seminar series

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