Centre for New Writing

Artificial Intelligence

About the commission

We wished to commission a writer to help researchers to allay public fear about the development of artificial intelligence technologies. Science fiction has traditionally painted an Orwellian picture of new technologies. Much dramatic representation, too, envisages brave new worlds where robots murder the last humans on earth. None of this helps researchers who wish to develop these technologies for the public good.

It affects the uptake of potentially life-saving technological solutions to everyday challenges. The technology to alert the emergency services when an elderly person falls, for example, is cheap and readily available. Devices for tracking where patients with dementia are could also save time, money, and anxiety. Why is such technology not being used? Working closely with Professor Jeremy Levesley and his team, the commissioned writer explored the public understanding of artificial intelligence and promoted its uptake for improving the quality of life. It is hoped that this will only be the start of such collaboration, as the challenge is significant, but the potential benefits considerable.

The commissioned writer was invited to produce a short story, short poetry sequence, monologue or piece of narrative non-fiction, to be featured in a pamphlet about artificial intelligence, introduced by Professor Levesley. The pamphlet was distributed to target audiences and we hope that the writing will help to reshape attitudes towards artificial intelligence across a number of sectors.

The winner

The winner of the AI commission was Kevan Manwaring. He wrote a series of micro-fictions in the disenfranchised voices of AIs, called GOLEM Speaks. The pieces explored issues of sentience and digital rights. The arc explored AIs' nascent consciousness in the struggle to be 'seen' and 'heard'.

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