Stephanie A. Dick

Monday 3 May, 2021, at 16:30

Making Up Minds

Every time someone proclaims that an AI has accomplished a given task – that it has won a game of chess, that it has recognized a face, that it has proved a mathematical theorem – every time, that task has been redefined. It has been made into the sort of task that AI can do – the task is translated into its formalisms, languages, operations, representations, it is made to accommodate the affordances of the machine. As we introduce AI into ever more corners of our political, social, and epistemic life, it is urgent to unpack what is at stake in those translations and redefinitions. This talk explores, in particular, how two human cognitive faculties — “reasoning” and “knowledge” — were redefined with the computer in mind in the context of early approaches to automation in mathematics. Given that through Western history, many people – colonized people, enslaved people, women – were denied full possession of these faculties by Europeans, it is especially important to understand how they were attributed to themachine.

Short bio

Stephanie Dick is an Assistant Professor of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her focus is on the history of mathematics and computing in the 20th century. Her first book project, Making Up Minds: Computing and Proof in the Postwar United States explores attempts to automate cognitive faculties like reasoning and knowledge in the early introduction of computers to mathematical research. Her second project explores the early establishment of law enforcement databanks in New York State in the 1960s and 70s. She co-edits the “Mining the Past” column at the Harvard Data Science Review, she sits on the editorial board of the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, she is a member of the Scholars Council at the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry at UCLA, a co-organizer of the annual SIGCIS conference, a Council Member at the History of Science Society, and she is a co-organizer of the “Histories of AI: A Genealogy of Power” Mellon Sawyer Seminar currently underway at Cambridge University.