Is AI the New Frankenstein? with Ken Goldberg

Is AI the New Frankenstein? with Ken Goldberg
Tue April 17th 2018, 5:00 - 6:30pm
Event Sponsor
Humanities Center, Department of Communication, Taube Center for Jewish Studies
Levinthal Hall

Is AI the New Frankenstein? (Ken Goldberg, UC Berkeley with Fred Turner, Stanford)

200 years after Mary Shelley's masterwork appeared in print, “Artificial Intelligence” is running amok, provoking extreme claims of opportunities and threats. Many assert that AI is an “exponential technology”, a “new electricity” that will transform every industry. Advocates claim that fully autonomous cars and robots with human dexterity are just around the corner. At the same time, headlines report that robots will soon steal the majority of our jobs. A number of well-known and otherwise reasonable scientists and technologists state with confidence that AI will soon achieve a “Singularity” where Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will vastly surpass human abilities and that such “superintelligence” is an existential threat to humanity.

"Humanity still has a few good years left", asserts Ken Goldberg, artist and William S. Floyd Distinguished Professor of Engineering at UC Berkeley, "the utopian and dystopian views of AI are highly distorted."

Goldberg traces the history of Frankenstein to the Jewish 16th century myth of the Golem and to ETA Hoffman's classic The Sandman from 1816. In 1919, a year before the word “robot” was coined, Sigmund Freud  published an influential essay, Das Unheimliche, later translated into  English as “The Uncanny” sparking what Martin Jay described as the “master trope” of critical theory in the 1990’s.

Professor Goldberg will link the Uncanny with contemporary robotics through the concept of the Uncanny Valley which relates to our contemporary human fear of and fascination with a broad variety of technologies from AI to Google Glass.

In partnership with the Stanford celebration of Frankenstein at 200, Professor Goldberg will describe his own artworks that examine the question of mortality to probe the boundary between what is alive and what is life-like. This multi-media presentation will feature a series of short films and artworks such as the Telegarden (1995-2004), an online installation that let participants tend a living garden using an industrial robot via the Internet.


Ken Goldberg is an artist and professor UC Berkeley. Ken is a pioneer in internet-based robotic telepresence and Cloud-Based Robotics / Automation and has published over 200 peer-reviewed technical papers on algorithms for robotics, automation, and social information filtering; his inventions have been awarded eight US Patents. He is Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering (T-ASE), Co-Founder of the African Robotics Network (AFRON), Co-Founder of the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM), Co-Founder and CTO of Hybrid Wisdom Labs, Co-Founder of the Moxie Institute, and Founding Director of UC Berkeley's Art, Technology, and Culture Lecture Series which has hosted over 150 presentations by artists and curators. Ken's artwork has
been exhibited at Ars Electronica, ZKM, Centre Pompidou, ICC Biennale, Kwangju Biennale, Artists Space, The Kitchen, and the Whitney Biennial. For details on research and art, please visit: