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Social Machines: a New Form of Intelligence?

Part of the 2023 Minerva Lecture Series

  • 25 Apr 2023, 6.00pm to 25 Apr 2023, 7.00pm BST (GMT +01:00)
  • East Building Lecture Theatre, 1.1, East Building, University of Bath
  • This event is free
A cartoon of an ant sitting at a desk and working on a computer
Join us for the next lecture in the 2023 Minerva Series

When you access YouTube or TikTok you may find yourself in the presence of a new form of intelligence, that is of agents capable of pursuing their goals in new situations, sometimes by learning or reasoning. This definition can include animals, microorganisms, and algorithms such as the recommender systems which decide what content you see on websites like YouTube. Even ant colonies can display intelligent behaviour at a collective level and be seen as an individual intelligent entity. We will focus on the collective behaviour of social machines, formed by connecting human participants through a digital infrastructure, for example on social media.

In this talk Nello Cristianini, Professor of Artificial Intelligence in the Department of Computer Science, will explore what a social machine is, how it can arise from the interaction of human participants, and if it can be seen as an autonomous intelligent entity.

What can we learn from this perspective about common forms of AI, how we can regulate their use, and how society is shaped by them? Overall Nello will discuss how different disciplines are needed to understand the two-way relationship between AI and Society.

The Lecture will be chaired by Roland Pease. Roland Pease is a science journalist and presenter of Science in Action every week on the BBC. His interests range from the origin of life to the fate of the Universe. He was recently awarded the European Geophysical Union's Angela Croome prize for consistent excellence in reporting earth sciences, and the UK Press Gazette recognised Science in Action as "The Best Radio Journalism" at the start of the pandemic. Previous prizes have celebrated his reporting on The Hunt for the Higgs and his series on the Reality of Robots. Before joining the BBC, Roland worked at Nature, having taught physics at Lancashire Polytechnic (now UCLAN), and researched the physics of chemical reactions at Nottingham University. "The great thing about my job," Roland says, "is having the licence to pick up the phone to top researchers anywhere in the world and ask them about their work. And getting an answer."

This lecture is based on the book The Shortcut (Why Intelligent Machines Do Not Think Like Us)


University of Bath

East Building Lecture Theatre, 1.1 East Building University of Bath Claverton Down Bath BA2 7AY United Kingdom

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