Imperial College London

The need for humanities in an AI-dominated future


Roberto Trotta speaking

The Charmian Brinson Honorary Lecture returned in-person on Wednesday 2 November in the Clore Lecture Theatre, South Kensington campus.

Professor Roberto Trotta, astrostatistician, science communicator, author and former CLCC Director, delivered the CLCC's annual guest lecture 2022. Presently on leave of absence from Imperial and seconded to the International School of Advanced Studies in Trieste (SISSA) where he leads a new data science group, Roberto addressed an audience of students, staff and members of the public.

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In his talk entitled ‘the need for Humanities in an AI-dominated future’, Professor Trotta walked the audience through the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), looking in detail at the impact that the all-pervasive use of AI-enabled decision making is having on our lives. Referring to the work of Alan Turing and Joseph Weizenbaum amongst others, he agreed with the latter that, fundamentally, computers should not be given tasks which demand wisdom.  

Professor Trotta discussed the pernicious gender and racial biases of data culled from the internet and his fears of a digital future where, he conjectured, we risked losing our essential humanity. Whilst, he said, it is the tendency of AI to ‘flatten everything to the dimension of efficiency’, he asserted the role of humanities to keep science true to the nature of life, and called for the involvement of philosophers, historians, psychologists, writers and poets to ensure that in an AI-dominated future we do not lose the most important aspects of human life.

In a lively Q and A session, members of the audience posed questions about a range of AI-issues and conundrums, with Professor Trotta providing additional background, examples and food-for-thought.

At the speaker’s request, this particular lecture was not recorded.


Cleo Bowen

Cleo Bowen
Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication