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Theme: At the intersection
Theme: At the intersection

Studies of new human-machine interactions

Technological innovations continue to raise important questions about the ever-changing intersections between humans and machines. These innovations not only change the way we conceive of technology and what it is to be human, they also have the potential to dramatically change the relations between the two. For example, artificial intelligence and robotics offer the building blocks for some very different kinds of computing machines, machines that might behave, independently, in new and unanticipated ways. The prospect of these new machines invites questions around how we may want to relate to them and what roles they play in our ordinary experiences.

Recent developments in biology are also transforming the scale, complexity and indeed nature of the machines we will interact with. The promise is of machines that operate as living organisms, invisible to the human eye, sustaining, repairing and reconfiguring themselves in response to particular factors. Computational modeling too is allowing us to advance our understanding of biological systems. The premise that underlies this research is that biology and computation are, at least at one level, interchangeable and consequently capable of informing one another. As a whole, these innovations thus provoke questions about where the boundaries lie between machines and biological life, and the active role we will have in configuring these boundaries.

This theme aims to identify and investigate potentially radical innovations in technology such as these. As well as examining how they transform human-machine interactions, the intention is to examine how they may change the ideas we have of ourselves and the social and material relations we forge in the world. The focus is thus on the evolving intersections between humans and machines, and the impact such transformations may have on social life.

Research Questions

  • What emerging technologies have the potential to radically transform our interactions with machines?
  • What are the scientific and technological ideas and practices that underlay these innovations?
  • How do the shifting intersections affect the science practices underlying our understanding of biological and technological systems.
  • How will the new wave of technological innovations take shape, allowing us to handle, manipulate and program¹ them?
  • In what way will these new technologies become a part of our routine human-machine interactions?
  • What are the implications of such innovations on everyday social life?