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Digital Horizons Lecture: Sylvester Johnson

Digital Horizons Lecture: Sylvester Johnson

Could a Robot Feel Pain?

Race, Technology, and the Political Problem of Personhood
 

Presented in partnership with the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA)


In this lecture, recorded on April 5, Sylvester A. Johnson interprets the work of Ibn Rushd ("Averroës"), the twelfth-century Islamic scholar of Andalusia who achieved renown as the "father" of secularism, in order to elucidate and heuristically challenge Ibn Rushd’s theory of the intellect as a power of the soul. Johnson leverages Rushd’s distinction between sensing and knowing in order to examine contemporary, sensory-driven AI technology (particularly brain-computer-interface architectures) as a uniquely generative problem of interest for humanists and technical experts alike. Of central importance is the sensation of pain, as it constitutes a phenomenon of embodiment, a category of human experience, and a political problem that has been implicated in histories of racial domination.