Creative AI meetup #17: Hopes and Fears for AI

This month’s Creative AI meetup was on the topic of Hopes and Fears for AI. The talk once again featured two speakers, both from a more scientific / academic background than previous meetups, which usually featured one artist and one scholar.

First up, Beth Singler (Faraday Institute for Science and Religion / Centre for the Future of Intelligence) considered the influence of current dominant narratives around AI.

Her talk was on the topic of “Prophecy or Prediction? Artificial Intelligence and Imagining the Future”
The stories that we tell ourselves about artificial intelligence influence the development of the technology itself. This talk will consider the influence of current dominant narratives – shared through the press and through media such as television, film, and memes – and how those stories can present as prediction while containing elements of prophetic judgement within them. The role of specific charismatic voices such as Ray Kurzweil, the “Prophet of Both Techno-Doom and Techno-Salvation” (Motherboard 2011) in perpetuating and shaping accounts of the future will also be considered, as well as the purpose of such accounts. How such eschatological or apocalyptic accounts affect individuals will also be addressed, with reference to accounts of anxiety and fear, along with how far future stories and imagery might serve to prevent public engagement with more near future issues.

Dr Beth Singler is the Research Associate on the “Human Identity in an age of Nearly-Human Machines” project at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. She is exploring the social, ethical, philosophical and religious implications of advances in Artificial Intelligence and robotics. As a part of the project she is producing a series of short documentaries, including Pain in the Machine, which won the 2017 AHRC Best Research Film of the Year Award. Beth is also an Associate Research Fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, collaborating on a project on AI Narratives.

The second speaker was Matthew Crosby, a postdoc at Imperial working on the Kinds of Intelligence project as part of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence. He is interested in the relationship between different forms of intelligence (especially artificial), and consciousness. He maintains a blog on consciousness and the future of intelligence at, where you can also find more information about his work.

He discussed “AI Suffering”
AI has the potential to change human lives for better and for worse. This is a general property of technological advances, which have previously brought greater (technological) power, and, with that, greater (moral) responsibility. What is different about AI, however, is the possibility of creating sentient entities, for which we may be morally responsible. By creating such entities, we risk increasing the amount of suffering in the world – not for us, but for them. Thomas Metzinger has called for a moratorium on any AI research that could result in AI entities that suffer. However, it is not clear exactly which research constitutes a risk. Metzinger focuses on research into conscious AI. I believe this is too narrow. In this talk I will argue that all progress in AI is progress towards creating entities with a capacity for suffering. AI suffering may be inevitable. It may also be a moral necessity.