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The Betty Behrens Seminar on Classics of Historiography

Paul Seaward on "The History of the Rebellion" by Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon

Is 'artificial' intelligent? Understanding human intelligence in the AI age

Thu 30 November 2023

McGrath Centre

Join BAFTA award winning documentary maker Sheila Hayman in conversation with John Naughton.

Are we on the verge of computers cleverer than any human, in every way; what’s sometimes called ‘Artificial General Intelligence’?

To teach a computer to recognise 'cat', you have to feed it millions of lines of code, turned into images of cats, doing all the wacky things cats do. A human toddler only needs to encounter two or three cats, and she'll recognise any cat, in any situation, as a cat - forever.

Our brain, the most complex structure in the known universe, runs on about fifteen watts of completely renewable energy. And unlike a computer, we don’t need more energy to learn new things.

A narrative is developing that automation and ‘progress’ are one and the same. Is this leading us up the wrong path? In doing so, are we ignoring the many other kinds of progress we urgently need, to avoid epidemic mental and physical illness, and a fried planet?

At this event, Sheila Hayman will explain why disaster is not inevitable: we just need a new understanding of intelligence. One that values the human and the artificial for what each is good at, and helps humans flourish.

Trying to give computers human intelligence is - Senseless.

About Sheila Hayman

Sheila has written and directed documentary films for the BBC, Channel 4, ARTE, Beijing TV and others, winning a BAFTA, Time Out Documentary Series of the Year, Arts Documentary of the Year nomination and a Robert Kennedy award.

She has been UK Young Journalist of the Year, the BAFTA/Fulbright Fellow in Los Angeles and a columnist for The Guardian newspaper.

Many of her films have focused on our relationship with technology. Her 1992 BBC film, 'Horizon: The Electronic Frontier' asked 'What would the world look like with information as money?' and foresaw ubiquitous surveillance, the computer in your pocket and DeepFakes, including their political risks. In 2017, as Director's Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, she embarked on 'Senseless', about the difference between human and machine intelligence. In 2020 her work on the carbon footprint of 'AI' led to her being Artist in Residence at PIK Potsdam, Europe's premier research institute on the climate emergency.

She also coordinates a creative writing and performance group at UK NGO Freedom from Torture, working to help refugees as her father was helped in the 1930s.

Cost: free

Enquiries and booking

Please note that booking is required for this event.



In person

All times

Thu 30 November 2023 5:00PM - 6:00PM


Address: McGrath Centre
St Catharine's College
Trumpington Street