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
Archaeologist appointed new honorary doctor
05 oktober 2016
Archaeologist Jeremy B. Rutter, Professor Emeritus at Dartmouth College, USA, has been appointed a new honorary doctor at the Faculty of Arts.
SEK 5 million grant to art project
27 september 2016
The Swedish Research Council has selected seven art research projects to receive grants, out of a total of 51 applications. One of the grants is awarded to Katarina Pirak Sikku and the Uppsala University Centre for Gender Studies.
Augmented reality app presents Old Uppsala in a new way
24 augusti 2016
In Old Uppsala lie the remains of one of Scandinavia’s most fascinating royal estates from the Iron Age. Once there were numerous houses and other buildings here, which visitors up until now have had to imagine from sketches. A new app called ‘Aug...
Innovative games win prizes at the Swedish Game Awards
20 juni 2016
Game Design students from Uppsala University Campus Gotland won half of the prizes at the Swedish Game Awards on 11 June.
Major international meeting on cultural heritage held
16 april 2016
Uppsala University’s Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson and Professor of Building Conservation Tor Broström at Campus Gotland participated in a large international conference on cultural heritage and cultural preservation at Yale University in mid-April....
New book documents terrorism from Shakespeare's time
02 december 2015
There was no word for terrorism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but outbreaks of terrorist violence were frequent. In his new book on terrorism in history and literature, Uppsala University Professor of English Literature, Robert Appel...
Heléne Lööw to be awarded the Martin H:son Holmdahl Scholarship
10 november 2015
The Martin H:son Holmdahl Scholarship is Uppsala University’s most prestigious award for the furthering of human rights and liberty. This year, the award is being given to docent Heléne Lööw at the Department of History for her important contribut...
Faculty of Arts awards honorary doctorates
02 oktober 2015
Robert Darnton, Professor Emeritus and previously university librarian at Harvard, and Hiroshi Maruyama, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Muroran Institute of Technology, Japan, have been made honorary doctors by the Faculty of Arts, Uppsala Uni...
Uppsala University recruits Professor Don Kulick
27 januari 2015
The internationally recognised anthropologist Professor Don Kulick is being recruited by Uppsala University. He will lead a broad, multidisciplinary research programme funded by the Swedish Research Council which will allow us to better understand...