Intersections Spring Symposium and Intersections Scholars Celebration
Friday, April 23, 2021
2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Keynote Speaker: Sylvester A. Johnson (Professor and Assistant Vice Provost, Virginia Tech)
“Will Robots Feel Pain? The Politics of Race, the Governance of Technology, and the Future of Humanity”
From Aristotle’s ancient conception of the soul, to Ibn Rushd’s 12th-century analytics of the intellect, to the information theory underlying neural networks, scholars have queried the agency of things and the relationship between matter and its other (spirit?). Does agency inhere in material things? Can an assemblage of machine parts be a person? What distinguishes humans from mere objects? In this talk, Sylvester Johnson proposes that the use of intelligent machines (in the form of artificial intelligence or machine-learning applications) for human enhancement has crystallized these age-old conundrums in a new key. Machines are now being successfully engineered to write poetry, compose music, make moral decisions, and even program other machines. More importantly, military efforts to combine humans with intelligent machines are beginning to produce far-reaching consequences that move beyond scenarios that pit mere humans against mere machines. By considering the racial history of so-called fetishism, Johnson gives historical depth to contemporary developments in cybernetics and discusses the prospect of new frameworks for humans and non-humans that may create new possibilities of machine life.
Sylvester A. Johnson, the founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities, is a nationally recognized humanities scholar specializing in the study of technology, race, religion, and national security. He is also assistant vice provost for the humanities at Virginia Tech and executive director of the university’s Tech for Humanity initiative. Johnson, who holds a faculty appointment in the Department of Religion and Culture, has authored The Myth of Ham in Nineteenth-Century American Christianity, a study of race and religious hatred that won the American Academy of Religion’s Best First Book award; and African American Religions, 1500-2000, an award-winning interpretation of five centuries of democracy, colonialism, and freedom in the Atlantic world. Johnson has also co-edited The FBI and Religion: Faith and National Security Before and After 9/11. A founding co-editor of the Journal of Africana Religions, he has published more than 70 scholarly articles, essays, and reviews.
This Intersections Spring Symposium keynote was also part of the UF Center for Humanities and the Public Sphere 2020-21 speaker series Rethinking the Public Sphere Part II: Data & Democracy.
Graduating Intersections Scholars
|Spring 2020 Graduates|
|Dontae Bellony||African American Studies/Sociology||Mass Incarceration|
|Sara Lottman||Economics/Political Science||Ethics|
|Travis Mazurek||Philosophy||Mass Incarceration|
|Ciara McAleavey||Political Science||Mass Incarceration|
|Kevin Quintana||Criminology||Mass Incarceration|
|Spring 2021 Graduates|
|Maria Echeverry||Anthropology/Criminology||Mass Incarceration|
|Brittany Findley||African American Studies/Political Science||Mass Incarceration|
|Alexandra Gomez||Criminology/English||Mass Incarceration|
|Gabrielle Jette||Biochemistry||Mass Incarceration|
|Hannah Lazar||English/Political Science||Global Blackness and Latinx Identity|
|Chase Law||Criminology||Mass Incarceration|
|Bailey Lovesky||Mathematics||Mass Incarceration|
|Alex Sherman||Classical Studies||Mass Incarceration|
|Kathryn Yachnis||Psychology-Behavioral Cognitive Neuroscience||Mass Incarceration|
|Liel Zoran||Psychology||Mass Incarceration|
This event was free and open to the public. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.