How have media representations shaped public perceptions of artificial intelligence, and how will a new generation of creatives find innovative ways to represent AI and its impact on society?
Led by Samuel Baker, Associate Professor of English and Good Systems Executive Team Member; Suzanne Scott, Associate Professor of Radio-Television-Film; and Paul Toprac, Professor of Instruction in Computer Science, Good Systems project Bad AI and Beyond brings together academics and industry experts in artificial intelligence, literature and media studies, game design, and more.
Our research questions included: What drives popular negativity about AI? Does the public have its reasons that the experts know not of? Or have the public adopted views of AI borne of misrepresentations? Do overtly dystopian representations of AI feed, or perhaps temper, public outrage about insidious issues with AI and machine learning such as the biases of search algorithms? Can we produce narratives on AI in different media modalities that are more nuanced and complex than just the false dichotomy of good and bad? Could a more accurately critical (and yet still exciting) model of AI themed entertainment be developed, once we’ve gained an understanding of how the public has been encountering AI?
We spent our project year first investigating how media representations shape public perceptions of artificial intelligence, and then using what we learned to explore how we might better represent everyday interactions with AI to the public.
We began by developing lists, taxonomies, and case studies of popular representations of AI, as well as hypotheses about how the general public and elite groups discriminate between “good” and “bad” AI, and about how media representations shape these perceptions.
We then tested these hypotheses in focus groups composed of UT community members with different levels of expertise in AI, and with a survey administered to a representative sample of the general public.
We shared our focus group and survey findings with undergraduate writers, filmmakers, and game designers, whom we challenged to use those findings, alongside other emergent research about AI, to craft novel representations of AI that go beyond dystopian clichés.
Our project culminated in the Bad AI and Beyond Festival that featured these students’ creations in multiple media, including, videos, written works, and a game, together with presentations of the insights gleaned from our focus group and survey research, and plenaries from science fiction luminaries Laeta Kalogridis and Bruce Sterling.
This website includes our team’s project findings and student work presented at the Bad AI and Beyond Festival in October 2020.
The Bad AI and Beyond Festivl is sponsored by Good Systems, a UT Grand Challenge.