Human Freedom in the Age of Artificial Intelligence - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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Human Freedom in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Event to take place February 22 at 7pm. Event to be held at 101 Archer in the Tulsa Arts District downtown.

In the 21st century, machines are learning to write essays, diagnose disease, create visual art, and even write new computer code. As our lives are increasingly guided by artificial intelligence, what are the implications for the humanities, and for human freedom itself? This talk and discussion will explore Renaissance humanism’s origins in a similar moment of technological upheaval and will suggest that humanistic study can articulate concepts of human agency, academic freedom, and truth that are indispensable in the age of the machine.

Professor Blaine Greteman is a Renaissance scholar, both in his field of expertise and in his penchant for exploring wide-ranging topics– such as mapping Renaissance England, medieval and early modern literature, the state of education in today’s political and social climate, and challenges facing the humanities in higher education. If you look through his author pages on sites like Slate and The New Republic, this diversity of interests becomes apparent. As an organization that is committed to the arts and humanities, we’re particularly drawn to his work on the state of the humanities today.

He has written about the experience of teaching Walt Whitman in a time of political uncertainty and social unrest. In another essay, he discusses the impact of Silicon Valley “disruptors” who claim to offer higher education a technological way out of its current mires, such as ballooning student debt and decreasing government funding. And he has also written on the balance humanities educators must strike in maintaining the traditions that make it a valuable field of study, while also adapting to a rapidly changing technological environment.

Most recently, in an article published by Newsweek, Greteman addresses a recent disruption to higher education: ChatGPT. ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence software that “can produce uncannily human prose.” Greteman, perhaps surprisingly, embraces such technology, seeing it as an opportunity to let machines help us in our thinking. In his professional life, he writes, he has used AI software to generate poetry and performed “a computational analysis of Shakespeare’s social network.” More than that, however, Greteman understands this moment as an indicatio to shift from an educational model that “tests basic skills in processing, retaining, and communicating information.” Rather educators need to guide students to explore “deeper humanistic questions” that AI software, such as ChatGPT, struggles to compute.

The Oklahoma Center for the Humanities is thrilled to welcome Blaine Greteman for an especially urgent discussion on the role of the humanities and the realities of freedom in the age of AI.

Blaine Greteman is a professor of English at the University of Iowa. He has written two longer scholarly works, The Poetics and Politics of Youth in Milton’s England and Networking Print in Shakespeare’s England. As an educator, he currently directs the University of Iowa’s General Education Literature program, where he supervises about 1,500 undergraduates each semester. He also writes for popular publications including The New Republic, Slate, The Week, and The London Review of Books.