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
Mapping people of the past by means of their bones
09 maj 2022
What is the best way to find out about a human being or animal that has been dead for perhaps several centuries? “Study the bones” is what Sabine Sten, professor of osteoarchaeology, would say. They can reveal an individual's age, body length, DNA...
Transforming space and society in Kiruna
24 mars 2022
State and corporate ideas about nature, people and the future played a decisive role in the development of Kiruna as a mining town over a century ago. Since 2004, when 6,000 Kiruna residents were informed that they would have to move because of gr...
New light cast on female pelvises in University collections
04 mars 2022
Many of the University’s museums currently hold preserved specimens of embryos, fetuses, newborns, and women’s pelvises. During the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, these formed part of embryological and obstetric collections at...
350 years old remains in a Stone Age site in Portugal
25 februari 2022
An African man who lived just 350 years ago was buried in a prehistoric shell midden in Amoreira in Portugal. This was very surprising because Amoreira and other midden sites in the Muge region are well known by archaeologists for the cemeteries o...
ERC Starting Grant for historian of ideas
31 januari 2022
The Starting Grants awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) in its 2021 call have been announced. The awardees include an Uppsala researcher: Ylva Söderfeldt, Senior Lecturer at the University’s Department of History of Science and Ideas.
Saying and doing are two different things
18 januari 2022
COLUMN. While more and more people say Yes and Amen when you ask them about the importance of living in a more environmentally conscious and sustainable way, few actually change their behaviour, writes Katarina Graffman, PhD in cultural anthropology.
Telling the story of Sweden’s Jews
11 november 2021
"There are many ways of being Swedish, and being Jewish is one of them." These words set the seal on Carl Henrik Carlsson’s history of the Jews in Sweden (Judarnas historia i Sverige). Carlsson is a researcher at Uppsala University, and his book h...
Campus Gotland students unearth Iron Age warrior
10 september 2021
Uppsala University archaeology students’ summer excavations on the island of Gotland turned up an exciting surprise: they found a warrior, with sword and spurs, in an Iron Age grave in Buttle Änge. Now the skeleton and grave goods will be analysed...
How Linnaean learning spread far and wide
07 juni 2021
An inspiring middle-school teacher sparked Linda Andersson Burnett’s interest in history. Now a researcher in the history of science and ideas at Uppsala University, she is currently studying Carl Linnaeus and his influence, which extends far beyo...
Elly Griffiths is giving this year’s Adam Helms Lecture
03 juni 2021
Each year, Uppsala University and the Swedish Publishers’ Association arrange a lecture in memory of the publisher Adam Helms. This year’s lecture will be given by the internationally renown British crime novelist Elly Griffiths on 16 September 20...
New thesis: Finery for fashionable ladies
11 maj 2021
When the first descriptions of knitting and crochet were published in Swedish, in the mid-19th century, such handiwork was described as the finest of all feminine handicrafts, for the benefit and pleasure alike of the trend-conscious, diligent mid...
Linnaeus’ complicated relationship with racism
07 maj 2021
Since June 2020, Carl Linnaeus has been a subject of debate in Sweden and around the world. What sparked it off were the actions of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Statues of slave owners have been lambasted or destroyed. In Sweden, the dis...
Conspiracy theories characterise views in and about Europe
03 maj 2021
Conspiratorial narratives of internal disintegration and external threats affect views in the European Union and Europe to an increasing extent. Our trust in society is put to the test in crises such as COVID-19 when various groups are singled out...
Nordic conspiracy theories through the ages
01 mars 2021
Conspiracy theories are becoming more common in the world, and the Nordic countries are no exception. Are some conspiracy theories unique to the Nordic countries? What typical narratives are disseminated? And when did this really start? A new book...
The plague year of 1710 was also a difficult year
24 februari 2021
As historians, it is our job to take a step back and give perspective to our current situation. For anyone looking back, it isn’t hard to find other difficult years. In Sweden’s past, 1710 was undoubtedly one such year, writes Jonas Lindström, res...
Sustainable development the focus of new graduate school at Campus Gotland
21 januari 2021
On 18 January, Uppsala University’s new multidisciplinary graduate school opened at Campus Gotland. Its focus is on sustainable development. This involves research on key societal challenges within changing energy systems, sustainable consumption,...
Archives crucial for Freemasons’ identity
22 december 2020
The Order of Freemasons’ meticulous archives are fundamental to their identity. The unique structure of the masonic archives reinforces the secrecy and mystique of the self-image that has been fashioned by the Order — and characterises it in the e...
Grants for research on the impact of AI on people and society
15 december 2020
In a major 10-year national research programme, two Wallenberg Foundations are supporting research on the impact of the ongoing technology shift, involving digitalisation and artificial intelligence, on our society and our behaviour. Two of the gr...
Linnaeus and Rudbeck medallists chosen
10 december 2020
This year the Rudbeck Medal is awarded to Professors Olle Eriksson, Inger Sundström Poromaa and Maria Ågren, while the Linnaeus Medal is awarded to Professor Kerstin Lindblad Toh and Chairman Dai-Won Yoon at Hallym University in South Korea.
Turkic cultural heritage in Uppsala
07 december 2020
Uppsala University has a rich collection of manuscripts, printed material, art objects and maps related to the Ottoman Empire and other Turkic cultures. How did they come to Uppsala? This story is told in a new book “Turcologica Upsaliensia. An Il...