AI and the Digital

This seminar series sets out to probe the more theoretical ramifications and implications of ‘AI and the Digital'. Together with international experts, participants are invited to discuss the entanglement of thought and technology.

This series is being hosted and streamed by The Philosopher (official Journal of the Philosophical Society of England), the Center for Science and Thought, the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence and Gloknos at Cambridge University.

The Seminar will be streamed lived and recorded.

Convened and hosted by Dr Audrey Borowski

April 08 2024, 8pm (CET)

Smart Grids. Smart Cities. Smart phones. Smart Medicine. Today, growing concerns with climate change, energy scarcity, security, and economic volatility have turned the focus of urban planners, investors, scientists, and governments towards computational technologies as sites of potential salvation from a world consistently defined by catastrophes and “crisis”. The penetration of almost every part of life by digital technologies has transformed how we understand nature, culture, and time. But how? And for whom? What futures are we imagining, or foreclosing, through our “smart” infrastructures? This conversation will historically and ethnographically situate this new mandate to be smart and discuss how the humanities and sciences can work together to develop technologies that engage planetary scale problems in more ethical, just, and diverse ways.

"The Smartness Mandate": Orit Halpern and Robert Mitchell with Audrey Borowski

May 06 2024, 8pm (CET)

What we mean by the phrase "artificial intelligence" changes from decade to decade and year to year. The rise of "generative AI" has added language to the definition, and not only because chatbots have been the public face of AI for the last year. This talk analyzes the Transformer Architecture and the language that makes it work, arguing that literary theory -- in an updated version -- is required to make sense of data culture today.

May 13 2024, 8pm (CET)

Arguably, AI is the most important cultural adaptation since the invention of language, and it is moving ahead at light speed—way beyond our ability to regulate or even comprehend it.  This discussion will explain the basics of the Transformer architecture that powers ChatGPT and similar AIs and explore their implications for our collective futures and political processes.

May 27 2024, 8pm (CET)

"A dominant view describes AI as the quest "to solve intelligence" - a solution supposedly to be found in the secret logic of the mind or in the deep physiology of the brain, such as in its complex neural networks. Matteo Pasquinelli's book The Eye of the Master: A Social History of Artificial Intelligence argues, to the contrary, that the inner code of AI is shaped not by the imitation of biological intelligence, but the intelligence of labour and social relations, as it is found in Babbage's "calculating engines" of the industrial age as well as in the recent deep neural networks for face recognition. Pasquinelli will discuss his reading of the 'labour theory of automation' in the age of AI".

June 03 2024, 8pm (CET)

Since ancient times, algorithms have been one of the several definitions of rules, but by no means the only or even the most prominent one. Rules: A Short History of What We Live By (2022) traces how the rise of rules of algorithms in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This seminar will be a discussion of the book, prefaced by a brief introduction to its themes, with special emphasis on the rule-as-algorithm and its alternatives.

June 10 2024, 8pm (CET)

Technology is the architect of our intimacies. These days, digital life has brought us to a point of inflection. We are human because language makes us so. And now, from our earliest years, we contemplate a world where we talk to smart machines. What does that do to who we are as humans? What is the necessary conversations about our human response?

June 17 2024, 8pm (CET)

How did data-empowered algorithms come to shape our personal, professional, and political realities? Why do we view data with primacy in establishing truth, and how did access to data — “the new oil” — come to drive such power? Working together across the two cultures, as a historian and as a practicing data scientist, we've explored these questions in class over the past decade. Our resulting course seeks to engage students in the functional, critical, and rhetorical capabilities we think necessary to understand and shape the future of data. We'll share lessons learned from the course and our resulting book about data, truth, and power, as well as how our students have in turn shaped our own understanding. Our arc spans 19th-century social physics through the development of mathematical statistics, Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, and our contemporary corporate embrace of automated decision systems. 

AI and the Digital 2024 Poster
© Nick Halliday

Join us via Zoom:

Information and Registration at

Desirable Digitalisation: Rethinking AI for Just and Sustainable Futures

The seminar series is organized as part of the ‘Desirable Digitalization: Rethinking AI for Just and Sustainable Futures’ research project, a collaboration between the Universities of Bonn and Cambridge, funded by Stiftung Mercator. The goal of the project is to explore how AI (artificial intelligence) and other digital technologies are influenced by concepts of the human and how they can be designed to be responsible, socially just and ecologically sustainable.


Avatar Borowski

Dr. Audrey Borowski


University of Bonn, Center for Science and Thought, Institute of Philosophy, Konrad-Zuse-Platz 1-3

53227 Bonn

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