She studies AI as existential media
30 April 2020
How are we influenced when smart digital assistants, like Siri and Alexa, become part of our homes? And what happens when we begin to track deviating individuals through biometrics? “More research is needed on what it means to be human in a digital era,” says Amanda Lagerkvist.
She is senior lecturer at the Department of Informatics and Media and has established an entirely new field of research: existential media studies. This field deals with what it means to be human in a digital age, when more and more of society is automated.
With her research, she wants to contribute to more than just a critical perspective around the hype associated with artificial intelligence.
“We cannot just say these developments are positive. A new opportunity with technology can also include vulnerability. This is why humanists like myself need to be involved. But we shouldn’t just criticise, we also have to take on the challenge creatively. We need to talk to AI researchers about what we want to do with AI, what major societal questions we can solve, but also what values are in the balance.”
Biometric AI changes how we view humanity
Amanda Lagerkvist heads the interdisciplinary project BioMe. It deals with the existential consequences of biometric AI, that is technology that uses the body to identify a person, such as facial and voice recognition.
“The face, voice and body are unique for humans. What happens when they are interwoven with new technologies? What is the biometric person and how will it change how we see ourselves and each other?”
Other problems occur when biometrics are used to localise people and to track potentially deviating individuals in a society.
“What happens with LGBTQ+ and minority groups, such as undocumented individuals, whose entire existence is based on not being seen? These are examples of why this research is so important. These autonomous systems reach into the very depths of our existence.”
Asking inconvenient questions
She is one of the researchers to receive a grant within the large WASP-HS programme, which studies AI and automated systems from a humanistic and social sciences perspective. She is pleased to see that the humanities have been given such a central role in the initiative.
“As researchers in the humanities, our task and our mission from society is always to ask inconvenient questions, to provide context and to dig deeper. But we have to work with AI researchers to formulate what is at stake.”
She is collaborating with the Chalmers Artificial Intelligence Research Centre and plans a series of meetings both in Gothenburg and Uppsala. Together, they will be conducting collaborative research in cooperation with industry.
Solving major societal challenges
AI is rife with prophets declaring it will solve all of humanity’s problems. Amanda Lagerkvist says it would naturally be wonderful if major societal challenges, like the coronavirus pandemic or the climate crisis, could be solved with the help of technology. But there needs also to be a discussion about what AI should not be used for. Perhaps we need “safe zones” where automation does not reach, according to Amanda Lagerkvist.
“Based on the discussion so far, it has sounded like AI is a force of nature that will take over and reign over us, but do we need to automate everything just because we can? The technology is built by people for specific purposes and to solve specific problems, but it becomes dangerous when we allow it to take the lead in societal development.”
- Amanda Lagerkvist heads up the project BioMe: Existential challenges and ethical imperatives of biometric AI in everyday lifeworlds, which is ongoing from January 2020 to December 2024.
- WASP-HS (The Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program – Humanities and Society) is a research programme on how the current technological transition will influence our society and our behaviour. The Wallenberg Foundations is investing up to SEK 660 million on research that examines the changes resulting from this technological transition.
- Blog post by Amanda Lagerkvist: Sweden needs to take a lead in humanistic and social scientific perspectives on AI
- BioMe: Existential challenges and ethical imperatives of biometric AI in everyday lifeworlds
- Uppsala Informatics and Media Hub for Digital Existence
- The Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program – Humanities and Society
The VR game that takes you to medieval Visby
14 augusti 2020
Using a VR helmet, you can try your hand at archery in 14th century Visby. This new VR game has been developed by the game company Disir, which was founded by a game developer and three archaeologists, of which two research at Uppsala University.
“The American dilemma is far from resolved”
15 juni 2020
The police violence in Minneapolis that resulted in the death of George Floyd has once again thrust relations between black and white Americans onto the agenda, a dilemma that will most likely play a central role in this autumn’s presidential elec...
Social graces and etiquette vital for Carl Linnaeus
04 juni 2020
What would have become of Carl Linnaeus if he had remained single? Would science have missed out on one of its major lodestars without his well-functioning household? And was his son, Carl Linnaeus the Younger, really the ne’er-do-well he was repu...
Medieval manuscript fragments acquired
26 maj 2020
A group of fragments of medieval manuscripts has been acquired by Uppsala University Library. Among these there is a fragment related to Saint Bridget of Sweden. This particular fragment may have been written at or owned by the Vadstena Abbey.
She studies AI as existential media
30 april 2020
How are we influenced when smart digital assistants, like Siri and Alexa, become part of our homes? And what happens when we begin to track deviating individuals through biometrics? “More research is needed on what it means to be human in a digita...
New study reveals unknown side of Astrid Lindgren’s creative process
21 februari 2020
Why did Jonathan Lionheart’s pitch-black hair suddenly turn golden? And how did Master Detective Kalle Blomqvist get his proper name? In the “Astrid Lindgren Code”, literature researcher Malin Nauwerck lifts the lid on some of the literary world’s...
History professor given prestigious assignment
22 januari 2020
Maria Ågren, professor of history, has been awarded a distinguished professor grant of SEK 50 million over 10 years by the Swedish Research Council. The council awarded grants totalling some SEK 380 million to eight applicants.
Winner of the 2019 Geijer Prize Named
14 januari 2020
The Geijer Prize for history 2019 has been awarded to Mia Kuritzen Löwengart for her doctoral thesis A Matter of Social Urgency: The emergence of a symphony orchestra and concert house in Stockholm, ca. 1890-1926 and Hedvig Widmalm for her doctora...
Legendary runestone bears witness to climate anxiety 1,200 years ago
08 januari 2020
After more than 1,000 years, one of the greatest mysteries of the early Viking Age, the Rök runestone which bears the world’s longest runic inscription, appears to have been solved. According to four Swedish researchers, the puzzling inscription h...
Martin Henriksson Holmdahl Prize goes to Afaf Doleeb and Patricia Lorenzoni
21 november 2019
The Martin Henriksson Holmdahl Prize is Uppsala University’s foremost award for contributions to the promotion of human rights and liberty. This year’s prize is shared by graduate student Afaf Doleeb and researcher Patricia Lorenzoni for their com...
Large-scale cadastral maps on parchment digitised
08 november 2019
Uppsala University Archives holds a large collection of hand-drawn seventeenth century maps on parchment. These maps are of significant historical value and a valuable source of information on the University’s agricultural properties at the time.
New Honorary Doctors Appointed at Uppsala University
21 oktober 2019
The nine faculties at Uppsala University have decided on who they wish to appoint as honorary doctors this academic year. The new honorary doctors include researchers in fields as diverse as string theory, maternal healthcare, evolutionary biology...
Excavation documentation from Labraunda digitised
21 oktober 2019
Uppsala University Library's part of the project Mötesplats Medelhavet ("Labraunda") - a research platform for digitised archaeological collections and archives at the Swedish institutes in Athens, Rome and Istanbul, is now being started. The aim ...
Aristocratic family trees became scientific model
01 oktober 2019
Before the French Revolution, family trees were reserved for the feudal upper classes, who used them to consolidate their social status. While feudalism broke down and family trees lost their old roles, the trees gained new functions as scientific...
Uppsala philosopher elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
19 september 2019
Folke Tersman, professor of practical philosophy at Uppsala University, has been elected as a member of the class for humanities and for outstanding services to science at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Johan Ihre’s dissertations now in digital form.
06 september 2019
Johan Ihre (1707-1780) was professor of Rethoric and Politics at Uppsala University for 42 years. During this time he managed no less than 453 dissertations, the theses of the time. These dissertations are currently a widely used source material i...
Sustainable urbanisation requires collaboration
10 juni 2019
On Sunday, 30 June, six seminars on sustainability and urbanisation focusing on India and Sweden will take place in Almedalen. To find out more, we talked to Swaminathan Ramanathan, visiting research fellow, and Owe Ronström, professor of ethnolog...
Races for women play an important role
06 maj 2019
Participating in a race for women plays an important role for women and increases self-confidence among participants. Women aim to perform as well as they can, and they place most emphasis on their physical performance, despite the organisers’ oft...
Award for research and teaching on the Holocaust
11 april 2019
Tomislav Dulić, Senior Lecturer in History and Director of the Hugo Valentin Centre, has been awarded the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Award 2019.
Diplomatic wives’ political clout often overlooked
07 mars 2019
Many 20th-century accounts of international relations and diplomacy often leave out the role of women. Diplomats’ wives were not officially employed, but diplomacy was frequently based on couples working together.