In October 2018, two new research projects – Giving Voice to Digital Democracies: The Social Impact of Artificially Intelligent Communications Technology and Expertise Under Pressure – will inaugurate the Centre for the Humanities and Social Change, Cambridge. We are delighted to welcome Professor Ann Copestake, Co-Investigator of Giving Voice to Digital Democracies, to the Centre and asked about her hopes for the project.

Ann Copestake is Professor of Computational Linguistics at the Cambridge Language Sciences Interdisciplinary Research Centre. Read her biography here.

Q. Professor Copestake, which aspect of Giving Voice to Digital Democracies do you find most exciting? 

Artificially Intelligent Communications Technology (AICT) is an integral part of the technological landscape which is current causing huge social change. There many ways in which the development of these systems can be influenced, for better or for worse, and this project gives us a real opportunity to have a constructive impact.

Q. How does your own area of interest relate to the project’s primary research questions? 

I’ve been working in computational linguistics (i.e., the ideas that underpin many aspects of AICT) since the 1980s.  The field is now moving with extreme rapidity. Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to take a much broader perspective and start to think about what it means to communicate with non-human semi-intelligent artificial agents. We are already at a point where systems have some intelligent and adaptive behaviour, but we are nowhere near artificial general intelligence.

Q. What are your hopes for the Centre for the Humanities and Social Change?

I hope that it will start informed and deep conversations about the social impact of AICT with those people who are currently creating the technologies, and with students who will be studying and developing them over the next few years. The role of education is, of course, vital if the social impact of AICT is going to change for the better.

Meet the Giving Voice to Digital Democracies Team: 

• Professor Ian Roberts, Principal Investigator
• Professor Bill Byrne, Co-Investigator
• Professor Ann Copestake, Co-Investigator
• Dr Marcus Tomalin, Senior Research Associate
• Dr Stefanie Ullmann, Postdoctoral Research Associate
• Dr Shauna Concannon, Postdoctoral Research Associate


Tel: +44 1223 766886