Center for Cyber-Social Dynamics Podcast Explores the Effects Emerging Technologies Have on Social, Physical, and Digital Worlds

As internet-based technologies evolve and computer scientists continue to make progress on tools and platforms that seek to improve the human experience, some researchers are focused on the psychological, social, cultural, and political effects of their efforts. Such is the case with John Symons, director of the Center for Cyber-Social Dynamics, one of six pillars of research that make up the University of Kansas Institute for Information Sciences (I2S).

Part of that work has led Symons, who is also a professor in the KU’s Department of Philosophy, to host a podcast that digs into the nuances and profound questions that arise at these crossroads. The podcast episodes feature open dialogues between Symons and technology or philosophy professionals over a broad spectrum of topics, such as the challenges of regulating large learning models; the future of human-AI partnerships in knowledge production; and the convergence of education, AI, and the future of work.

Guests on the podcast include David Westbrook, a professor at the University of Buffalo and co-director of the NYC program of finance and law; Denisa Kera, senior lecturer in policy and design at Israel’s Bar-IIan University; Federico Russo, professor of science and technology at the University of Amsterdam; Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire University; and Dr. Ramon Alvarado, professor of philosophy and digital ethics at the University of Oregon.

A particular topic of reoccurrence is the subject of Artificial Intelligence and the moral, ethical, and cultural impact of large language model technology. Episodes include a three-part series that delves into an array of important issues worthy of consideration as development work progresses, such as the socio-ethical implications of ChatGPT, the popular generative AI tool released publicly in November 2022 by Open AI.

Since its widescale release, questions and concerns have been raised about how disruptive ChatGPT might be for the workforce, the ethical issues it raises about privacy and copyright infringement, and, on the optimistic side, what applications it might have as it develops. Other responses have been considered by some to be at the extreme ends of a broad spectrum, with many experts voicing varying degrees of optimism and pessimism.

The topic of ChatGPT and its socio-ethical implications form the basis for a robust discussion between Dr. Alvarado, Sam Arbesman, a scientist and residence at Lux Capital and a research fellow at the Long Now Foundation, and Dr. David Tamez, assistant research professor and research program director of I2S, in the fifth and most recent episode released in March 2024. In the episode, listeners will encounter a series of related sub-topics that form a broad perspective on the implications of generative AI, including forming a better understanding of language models and reality, the limitations of language models, machine temptation, exploring the creative side of AI, and the future of human-machine partnership.

All episodes of the Center for Cyber-Social Dynamics podcast are available to the public, including the next episode with philosopher John Sullins on robots and their potential for moral agency. They can be found on the KU Institute for Information Sciences website, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you find your podcasts.