What Sci-Fi Futures Can (and Can't) Teach Us About AI Policy


Come to New America for a half-day mini-conference on the intersection of science fiction, futurism, and real-world AI policy!

Our anxieties about what we can do with AI versus what we should do are reaching a fever pitch. While companies scramble to define what "AI ethics" means for them and citizens see algorithmic decision-making creeping into their daily experience, policymakers are facing tough choices about how to regulate this new computational wild west. Yet public dialogue about the future of AI seems to be stuck in a loop, repeating the same stories about killer robots, job-stealing AIs, and god-like super-machines. Is science fiction to blame for selling us simplistic visions of AI apocalypse? How can we make sure the stories we tell ourselves about intelligent machines will examine real-life challenges like data-based discrimination and privacy invasion, not just far-fetched threats like "Terminator" uprisings? What lessons can we learn about present-day policy conundrums from the rich history of AI in science fiction literature and film?

Join Future Tense and New America’s Open Technology Institute for a lively afternoon of discussion on sci-fi and AI with policy and tech experts, futurists, and science fiction authors—including Malka Older (Infomocracy, Null States), whose political science fiction novels were just nominated for the prestigious Hugo award for best sci-fi series.

Follow the conversation online using #AIfutures and following @OTI and @FutureTenseNow.

Reception to follow.


1:00 - 1:05 PM: Introductory remarks, Kevin Bankston & Ed Finn

1:05 - 1:15 PM: Solo Talk: The Sci-Fi Feedback Loop, Kevin Bankston

1:15 - 2:05 PM: Panel 1: AI in Reality
AI experts will highlight the hottest issues in AI policy and ethics—and talk about how sci-fi has played Into those debates.

Kevin Bankston, @KevinBankston
Director, New America’s Open Technology Institute

Miranda Bogen, @mbogen
Senior Policy Analyst, Upturn

Rumman Chowdhury, @ruchowdh
Responsible Artificial Intelligence Lead, Accenture

Elana Zeide, @elanazeide
PULSE Fellow in Artificial Intelligence, Law & Policy at UCLA School of Law

Lindsey Sheppard, @lindseysheppard
Associate Fellow of the International Security Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies

2:05 - 2:20 PM: Solo Talk: How Sci-Fi Reflects Our AI Hopes and Fears, Kanta Dihal

2:20 - 2:25 PM: Recorded Provocation, Madeline Ashby, futurist and science fiction author, @MadelineAshby

2:25 - 3:15 PM: Panel 2: AI in Sci-Fi
Science fiction authors and researchers will survey how sci-fi TV, movies, and literature have treated the subject of AI throughout the years.

Kanta Dihal, @DrDihal
Postdoctoral Researcher, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence

Andrew Hudson, @AndrewDHudson
AI Policy Futures researcher, Arizona State University’s Center for Science & The Imagination, and science fiction author

Chris Noessel, @chrisnoessel
Lead Designer for IBM’s Watson Customer Engagement, author, and keeper of scifiinterfaces.com

Lee Konstantinou
, @LKonstan
Associate Professor of English Literature at University of Maryland & science fiction author

Damien Williams, @Wolven
Virginia Tech’s Department of Science, Technology, and Society

3:15 - 3:30 PM: Solo Talk: Untold AI - What AI Stories Should We Be Telling Ourselves?, Chris Noessel

3:30 - 3:35 PM: Recorded Provocation, Stephanie Dinkins, transdisciplinary artist and Professor, Stony Brook University, @stephdink

3:35 - 4:25 PM: Panel 3: Bridging AI Fact and Fiction
A mix of AI and sci-fi experts will discuss how we can better leverage sci-fi as a tool for thinking about the future of AI policy.

Ed Finn, @zonal
Director, Arizona State University’s Center for Science & The Imagination

Malka Older, @m_older
Aid worker, sociologist, and science fiction author (Infomocracy, Null States, State Tectonics)

Ashkan Soltani, @ashk4n
Independent security and privacy researcher, former Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission

Kristin Sharp, @ktsharp2
Director, New America’s Work, Workers & Technology

Molly Wright Steenson, @maximolly
Senior Associate Dean of Research in the College of Fine Arts and the K&L Gates Associate Professor of Ethics and Computational Technologies at Carnegie Mellon University

4:25 - 4:30 PM: Closing remarks and provocations

4:30 - 6:00 PM: Reception

This is a partnered event with:

Future Tense logo