Men being artificially intelligent.

Lots of them. (Thanks, P!)

PT-AI 2013 – “Philosophy and Theory of Artificial Intelligence”
Oxford, St. Antony’s College


Jean-Christophe Baillie (CSF, Aldebaran Robotics, Paris)
“AI: The Point of View of Developmental Robotics”
Theodore Berger (University of Southern California, L.A.)
Selmer Bringsjord (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY)
“What Does Watson 2.0 Tell Us About the Philosophy & Theory of AI?”
Daniel C. Dennett (Tufts University, Boston)
“If brains are computers, what kind of computers are they?”
Luciano Floridi (University of Hertfordshire/University of Oxford)
“Enveloping the World – How Reality Is Becoming AI-Friendly”
Stuart J Russell (UC Berkeley)
“Rationality and Intelligence”
Murray Shanahan (Imperial College, London)
“Consciousness, Artificial Intelligence, and the Frame Problem”
Michael Wheeler (University of Stirling, Scotland)
“AI and Extended Cognition”

29 thoughts on “Men being artificially intelligent.

  1. I guess this saves me the trouble of submitting something.

    I don’t quite understand why there are so many invited talks in the first place. A good reason to have so many invited talks would be to encourage diversity…which this obviously doesn’t do.

  2. Oh, last year all the invites were men, 3 out of 30 (10%) (based on names and photos) of the PC were women, and I didn’t see many more women in the program (but I don’t have time/will to do a proper job there).

    Quick scan of this year’s PC suggests 2-4 out of 41.


  3. It’s the field, not the organizer. Plus bad luck: I had a female speaker (earlier version of the site) but she gave up on me. Tell me the names of a few prominent women in the field – I’d be glad to know! Also, the “many” speakers do encourage diversity: diversity of approaches and disciplines.

  4. VCM, there are many women writing in the field. It would be great to know why you didn’t know that. Is it that most are in the US and you are not?

  5. If the post title were “Women Being Artificially Intelligent”, I would worry that it was sexist.

  6. Asur, sexism, like racism and a number of other “ism”s, is arguably connected to power and privilege. That gives us an asymmetry; in the professional domains we talk about, men are usually as a group much more powerful. Saying male students are foolish probably will have much less negative impact than the same being said of women students.

    I argued this point at some length in a recent review of “The Second Sexism” in the Philosopher’s Magazine. What one sees right away is that without putting and power privilege into one’s understanding, one cannot explain pretty obvious things.

  7. Bijan, thanks so much for calling that to my/our attentions. I some how didn’t register it.

  8. No worries, Anne! I’m a bit groggy so I’m double checking everything.

    Also, I wonder if you’ve fallen afoul of Poe’s law with VCMs comment. There’s so many of the standard excuses that I suspect satire (though, I’m getting numb to satire in this area).

  9. “Saying male students are foolish probably will have much less negative impact than the same being said of women students.”

    Probably. But that doesn’t make it less sexist.

  10. Slideraway, that depends on whether you have a good definition of sexism. If it takes power and privilege into account, then it won’t support the inference you seem to want to make.

  11. Anne, thanks for pointing out your review of The Second Sexism! I’ve heard that the book attempts to defend the individualistic understanding of sexism. I’ll have to read your review. It always seemed to me that the main benefit to feminist understandings of sexism are better than individualistic understandings at explaining the very sorts of cases (e.g., discrimination against certain groups of men) that some folks want to get at.

  12. For some reason my comment I tried posting using my WordPress account is blocked. I know this because it didn’t show up, and then when I tried reposting WordPress said I was sending a duplicate.

  13. Slideraway, your comment was removed. I don’t know the motive for removing it, but it may be that you are simply repeating your claims with making any effort to deal with my claim that you need to add in power and privilege.

    Not every negative thing said is sexist or racist or ageist, ableist, etc. it is a very common view is that for all of these ‘isms ‘ something more is present and that the something more is power and/or privilege.

    I don’t really think we should continue discussing this. I certainly get the sense that you haven’t read a great deal about the issues or given them much thought.

  14. Matt, I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

    It was interesting that the power/privilege idea explains a lot of examples Benatar gives, while he seems only to be able to say that they are examples of bias against men.

  15. Just speculating here, but I wonder if some of the resistance to the power/privilege idea isn’t driven by the terminology.

    I take it that most people enter the debate with a context independent notion of the relevant -ism; something along the lines of being pejorative about someone’s race or gender, or associating negative characteristics to such people, being biased against them, etc.

    At some point, saying “that’s not really racism” seems wrongheaded – they think you’re just trying to give a group of people a free pass on being mean and stupid.

    While owning certain words in a public debate is important, I can’t help but think that a context-dependent notion of racism is better treated as a technical notion (with a corresponding technical term), and let the more common uses of the terms stand as they are. Even if imperfect, they at least pick out a kind of bad behavior.

  16. “Slideraway, your comment was removed. I don’t know the motive for removing it, but it may be that you are simply repeating your claims with making any effort to deal with my claim that you need to add in power and privilege.”

    That is most definitely not what my comment did.

    I understand that, as you say, you do not want to discuss this with me, and that you think I should do more reading. But that is not a good reason to remove my comment.

    I wish whoever removed my comment would say why.

  17. Despite having put the original post up, I have no idea why or when the comment was removed. I apologise, though, for not keeping a closer eye on the discussion.

  18. Let me be clearer than I might have been: I didn’t remove your comment. I would not have done so myself, and It isn’t obvious why it was. Nonetheless, I do think our discussion was fruitless. I thought one problem is that you seem not very familiar with common views. Commenters here do not have to agree with common views, but I think you weren’t able to offer good reasons for accepting your view or for not being able to see what was going on with my reasons.

    This may well make us seem unfriendly, but that may well be because of expectations about how we should react. Usually arguing with people who work in a field is very tricky, particularly if you don’t have much background.

  19. ajkrieder, thank you for another intelligent comment! I do disagree, though. For two reasons:

    1. It seems to me common for white guys to reject many efforts to point out instances of racism, sexism, etc, because the efforts involve saying negative things about white males. In effect, their conversational ploy makes it pretty impossible to discuss the issues.

    2. It is also very common to link the ism with power and privilege – i’ll look in a moment for my favorite quote here. But in general it seems correct, I think. E.g., children who really don’t want adults to play their game are not age-ist, People who say, as some are recently, that British colonial rule was much more harsh and harmful than normally portrayed shouldn’t be assumed to be speaking from a biased perspective. That’s to say that saying something negative about people picked out on the basis of their sex, gender, etc may well not be an ism.

  20. I should admit that I am not very familiar with this debate, but there does seem to be something weird about making a position of power/privilege a necessary condition of an ‘ism.’

    I find many of the reasons (such as those already mentioned) for including such a condition compelling, but here’s what seems odd to me:

    We are often trying to exert power over others. For example, the GCC is trying to exert power over the selection process of academic conferences. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this, but it is an attempt to exercise power. This is probably what the white guys who accuse people of sexism are reacting to – even though the power being exercised over them is simply trying to level the playing field.

    But power and privilege are context dependent – we can’t just say that the only class capable of ‘ism’ is the ‘overall’ more privileged/powerful one. E.g., a female administrator who refuses to approve male tenure candidates is (in my mind) being sexist, as is a female (or male, I suppose) grad student who grades men more harshly.

    But contexts can be incredibly specific (similar the type/token problems that pop up everywhere). E.g., a group of women mocking the men at a workplace. It seems bad to say that they are not being sexist just because they are not the more powerful class overall – or even the more powerful class in that office.

    On the other hand, I support lots of ‘leveling the playing field’ type policies. Can anyone help clear this up for me?

  21. JT:

    I, for one, agree that a group of women mocking a man at the workplace could be an instance of sexism. I also agree with including power, in some form, in the definition of sexism.

    Insofar as I understand the lay of the land here, here’s how you can hold such a position consistently: define sexist sayings/doings as something said/done/etc. that reinforces a broader system of sex/gender oppression (patriarchy). Under that sort of definition, a group of women who mock a man at the workplace using sex/gender-based slurs (making homophobic remarks, for example) are engaged in sexism, because their comments reinforce patriarchy.

    You can contrast such a definition to a definition of sexism that explicitly states that only the most privileged sex overall can be sexist. Such a definition would be problematic, and problematic for the reasons you identify, I’d say. I think there have been people who have held such a definition of sexism (MacKinnon, maybe?), but it looks like a bad one to me.

  22. Matt, thanks for your response. I can certainly see how remarks that uphold a broader system of oppression are sexist, even if they are made by the oppressed class. But what about prejudices that do not uphold the broader system of patriarchy, but in which power is exercised in a smaller domain (for example, one who refuses to promote heterosexual, white males because she thinks they are all arrogant jackasses)?

    On the other hand, I do see where Anne is coming from, the children in her example are exercising a form of power (adults cannot play even if they want to) but they don’t seem to be doing anything objectionable.

  23. I sense that underlying JT’s reaction there is, in part, the intuition that there can be instances of prejudice or discrimination on the basis of sex (or some other characteristic conventionally associated with an “ism”) that do not necessarily uphold a broader system of oppression, and/or that do not necessarily implicate power/privilege beyond that exercisable at least in principle by the individual or small group engaging in such prejudice or discrimination, but which are nonetheless unjust.

    If we are not going to name that injustice by the “ism” in question (and I share what I take to be JT’s sense that arguments that we shouldn’t are susceptible to various difficulties), it does raise the question of what we will name it.

    I’m still thinking through – overtiredly, I’m afraid – the counterexample involving the children and haven’t quite put my finger on precisely why it fails to convince. It may have something to do with the relationship between adulthood and childhood not lending itself particularly well to analysis in terms of “age-ism” (at least not in my view, though I’ve read attempts at contrary arguments).

  24. “But what about prejudices that do not uphold the broader system of patriarchy, but in which power is exercised in a smaller domain (for example, one who refuses to promote heterosexual, white males because she thinks they are all arrogant jackasses)?”

    I suspect in many cases, this actually would be sexist for the same reason as the other cases (i.e., that it supports patriarchy). But in other examples of women being jerks to men, I’d be perfectly fine with just calling it jackassery or some such rather than sexist.

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