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SIU Carbondale lecture to focus on rise and benefits of AI

AI-generated image of a Saluki in cyberspace. (Images provided)

A lecture next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will highlight the rise of generative artificial intelligence and its interdisciplinary importance in social science and the humanities, along with the impact on everyday life.

Ajit Jaokar and Ayse Mutlu, both faculty at the University of Oxford in England, will present “The New World of Artificial Intelligence at the Center of Virtual Expression.” The lecture, part of the College of Liberal Arts’ Speaker Series, is from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, April 10, in Morris Library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The lecture will also address and dispel some of the hype, both positive and negative, surrounding the AI phenomenon, said Pinckney Benedict, professor, School of Literature, Writing and Digital Humanities, and director and founder of the Digital Xpression Lab.

Importance of AI

The hope is that those attending the lecture “gain a better understanding of the potential of generative AIs like Dall-E, MidJourney and ChatGPT, and their undeniable impact on society, as well as an appreciation for the inherently interdisciplinary nature of these technologies,” Benedict said.

Generative AI is capable of generating text, images or other media in response to prompts.

“In the correct context, they can enhance work productivity, artistic output and quality of life. And they are probably not plotting to destroy all humans,” Benedict noted.

Benedict added that AI-powered technologies “are swiftly becoming essential to many careers.”

“Happily, you don’t have to be a computer science expert to participate in the way these technologies are changing the game for artists, scholars and anyone interested in the future of work,” he said. “One area that’s getting really hot is no-code innovation. With AI-powered no-code tools, anyone can create and deploy sophisticated applications and software solutions without having to write a single line of code.”

New initiative planned at SIU

Jaokar and Mutlu will share their experiences in setting up an AI center of excellence, and their experience could lay the foundation for teaching and future opportunities within the College of Liberal Arts.

The university is at the start of an initiative to create the SIU Center for Virtual Expression, with a goal of opening in fall 2023, said Joddy Murray, dean of the college. The center’s focus will be to give nontechnical students at SIU Carbondale “access to cutting edge generative technology so that they can increase their productivity, expand its range and keep pace with the way artists express themselves in the 21st century,” Benedict said.

The center will also benefit faculty in several ways, he added.

“By gaining hands-on access to cutting-edge generative technology, faculty members will be able to explore the new approaches to teaching, research and creative work that life at a contemporary research institution demands,” he said. “They will also be able to collaborate with colleagues across disciplines and experiment with new tools and techniques for engaging with students and exploring complex topics. Additionally, the center will provide opportunities for faculty to engage with industry partners and stay up to date on the latest developments in the field, helping to ensure that their work remains ahead of the curve, both on and off campus.”

(Editor’s note: Ajit Jaokar and Ayse Mutlu are AH-jit jow-KAR and EYE-seh MOOT-loo)

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