Thinking Through Artificial Intelligence Using Literature

Matthew DeForrest, Ph.D., English, Johnson C. Smith University

It is difficult to write a description for this seminar. This difficulty does not arise out of a lack of material or things to say about it. People have been wrestling with the implications of human-bred artificial intelligences for long enough that we will have to artificially and arbitrarily limit how far back we go (tentatively 1920 for our seminar but any discussion must at least genuflect towards 16th Century Prague).

It arises out of how quickly the landscape is changing.

In our seminar, we will take up the challenge of trying to understand the Large Language Models like ChatGPT from a technological and societal point of view through hands-on experimentation, through media reports, and through artistic depictions of Artificial Intelligence.

Through our encounters with these touchstones, I hope that we will develop a better understanding of what we believe intelligence to be, what intelligence implies (what is sentience? How does human intelligence differ from machine or animal intelligence?), and how we draw the boarders of humanity.

Works to be read may include (but are not limited to) R.U.R., Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?2001: A Space Odyssey, and I, Robot.

The film versions of these (e.g. Bladerunner) and their descendants (e.g., The TerminatorBicenterial Man) will, at minimum, be alluded to.