February 2, 2024

Friday Night AI: “Consciousness, Intelligence, and Theory of Mind in Generative AI”

Panelists: Peter Railton, Benjamin Kuipers
Moderator: Rada Mihalcea
Organizer: Michigan AI Lab, in collaboration with the Ann Arbor District Library
When: February 2, 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Where: AADL Ann Arbor downtown, multi-purpose room (343 S 5th Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104)


More and more often we hear the question “Could AI systems become conscious?” It’s a question of relevance to technologists and philosophers alike, and without a good understanding of “what’s consciousness”, many out there seem to fall prey to worrisome concerns about the future of AI. Join us for a conversation with AI and philosophy experts on the complexities of intelligence, the nature of consciousness, the role of theory of mind, and the implications on AI’s (and AGI’s) evolving landscape.

About the speakers:

Peter Railton is the Kavka Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan.  His main research has been in ethics, philosophy of science, and moral psychology, focusing especially on questions about value, objectivity, explanation, and learning.  He has a special interest in the bearing of empirical and theoretical research in psychology, cognitive science, and evolutionary theory on these questions.  His work includes Facts, Values, and Norms(Cambridge UP, 2003), a collection of essays, and Homo Prospectus (Oxford UP, 2016), an interdisciplinary collaboration with philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science. He has also been a visiting professor at Berkeley and Princeton, and President of the American Philosophical Society (Central Division).  In the last decade he has been increasingly active on questions concerning artificial intelligence and ethics, work that includes the Uehiro Lectures at Oxford (https://www.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/uehiro-lectures-2022) and various writings and podcasts.  

Benjamin Kuipers is a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan. He came to Michigan from the University of Texas at Austin, where he served as Department Chair. He received his B.A. from Swarthmore College, his Ph.D. from MIT. His research in artificial intelligence and robotics focuses on the representation, learning, and use of foundational domains of knowledge, including knowledge of space, dynamical change, objects, and actions. He is currently investigating ethics as a foundational domain of knowledge for robots and other AIs that may act as members of human society.

Moderator: Rada Mihalcea is the Janice M. Jenkins Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan and the Director of the Michigan Artificial Intelligence Lab. Her research interests are in computational linguistics, with a focus on lexical semantics, multilingual natural language processing, and computational social sciences. She serves or has served on the editorial boards of the Journals of Computational Linguistics, Language Resources and Evaluations, Natural Language Engineering, Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research, IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing, and  Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics. She was a program co-chair for EMNLP 2009 and ACL 2011, and a general chair for NAACL 2015 and *SEM 2019. She is an ACM Fellow, a AAAI Fellow, and served as ACL President (2018-2022 Vice/Past). She is the recipient of a Sarah Goddard Power award (2019) for her contributions to diversity in science, and the recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers awarded by President Obama (2009).