14.0236 AI, SciFi and the academic world

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Wed Sep 13 2000 - 07:41:34 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 236.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2000 08:37:06 +0100
             From: MNIELSEN34@aol.com
             Subject: Re: computers outsmarting humans?

    In a message dated 9/11/0 A. Tripathi writes:
    >Vernor Vinge, scholar and science-fiction writer, predicts that one of
    >the most likely scenarios for the next 20 years is the creation of
    >computers that surpass humans in intelligence.

    As a fiction writer only peripherally tied-into the higher education world at
    this point in my career, I found this post intriguing. Its citation of a
    science-fiction author raised a question for me: were any members of Humanist
    present in Chicago for the WorldCon Science-Fiction Convention over America's
    Labor Day weekend? I'd be glad for feedback on the conference from this list,
    if so.

    One piece of good news: there was a good "academic track" at the confence,
    which discussed (among other things) the need for getting the fandom
    community and the academic community to talk with and respect each other. But
    wanting it and having it are two different things... there's still more
    competition than cooperation among these groups, it seems, if they even talk
    at all.

    My limited-scope appraisal of other Humanist-relevant content: It seemed
    there were surprisingly few workshops or panels at WorldCon on Artificial
    Intelligence and similar Internet/computing-related matters. Perhaps the
    "fandom" and fiction-writing communities are still playing catch-up to the
    scientific and academic ones (in what they regularly talk about).
    Science-fiction fans (as a subset of "the public") generally use computer
    technology and lingo extensively, but not as many are discussing the social,
    ethical, or theoretical implications of present research (what you Humanists
    are up to) for world economies and daily life. Do they not know, or do they
    just not care? I'm not sure, personally. Case-in-point: Humanist's recent
    discussion of the (Encarta) "business vs. academia" challenge is of much
    greater depth and quality than the level of discussion I hear among
    fans/consumers on similar socio-economic matters. Is the difference that the
    fans are "playing" and the Humanists are "working", or is it more subtle than
    that? Any comments or rebuttals?
    -Mark Nielsen

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