Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Friday, August 06, 2010

A Trip to Tallinn

This time next month I shall be in Tallinn, Estonia, to deliver a lecture at the Plektrum Festival. Which is to say, this:

The Plektrum Festival, which runs in Tallinn from 25 August to 5 September, will feature robots and a chance to see the giant steps made by robotic technology in the form of lectures, films, exhibitions and music. Both this year’s Plektrum and next year’s festival are part of the Tallinn 2011 European Capital of Culture programme.

The theme of this year’s Plektrum – the eight in festival history – is “Would you love a robot?” The cultural festival will illuminate the crossroads between humankind, technology and contemporary culture.

The premier guest of the festival is world-renowned electronic music legend Karl Bartos, who was a core member of Kraftwerk in 1975-1991, responsible for popular tracks from acclaimed albums such as Radio-Activity, Trans Europe Express, The Man Machine, Computer World and Tour de France. Bartos, from 2004 to 2009 professor for Auditory Media Design at Berlin University of the Arts, will deliver a lecture on the development of music and technology at the KUMU Art Museum of Estonia auditorium and will play an audio-visual concert at Rock Cafe.

I am, of course, quite chuffed about this. Surprised at the invite, given I'm not the most hardcore futurological strange-fictionista, not by a long shot, but definitely most chuffed. My take on it? Well, the speech I'm giving basically has the title, "Would a Robot Love You?" My abstract:

The robots of science fiction are more than just clockwork men; as often as not, they're shown as true AIs, not just processing but thinking. They may lack emotion, but still we imagine them as sentient; and where we project even "curiosity" on to them, that term hints at a kinaesthesia of attitude -- of affect. Can we really have sentience without emotion, and if not, how might such sentient robots actually feel about their creators? Would they like us, or would we have to make them like us? In a scenario of sentient beings trained to love and obey their masters, who would really be the cold, uncaring simulacra of humanity?

If you happen to be in Tallinn at the start of September, and fancy some mad ramblings on armies of killer automatons, the Chinese Room and my wacky theories about how ideation is really just sensation, well, come along.



Blogger gary gibson said...

There's a new novella coming out from Ted Chiang called 'The Life Cycle of Software Objects' which, I suspect, deals with many of the same kind of issues you might be talking about. Might be worth checking out, although I don't know if it's actually been published yet.

11:31 am  
Anonymous Johan said...

I've always considered the robots of science fiction more human than robotic, projections of us rather than a more alien AI. Then again: a sentient robot would be a creation of mankind, and to what degree can we really separate feeling from our concept of thinking? Would most of us even consider an AI a "true AI", a truly thinking artificial being, if it didn't have any feelings at all?


3:41 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Sounds pretty much like the thrust of my talk actually.

My answer to the "Would you love a robot?" question does sort of involve the question, "Is it Bender from Futurama?"

6:22 pm  

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