January 23, 2020 — There has been much discussion about artificial intelligence (AI) — from grand claims of AI taking over the world, to human beings combined with smart machine parts.

What is machine intelligence? Can AI machines actually think, or is thinking unique to humans? Where is the cutting edge of research and development that aims to enable machines to perform human-like tasks? Will AI research create machines that rival people's ability to think or feel? Could intelligent machines ever become human?

In this talk, humanities scholar Sylvester Johnson will discuss the "human" side of AI and intelligent machine applications. From healthcare to transportation to warfare, Johnson will explain the consequences of current technology innovation in AI. By separating the actual research and development from hype and fiction, this talk will offer a sober account of new frameworks for understanding the future of technology innovation. Johnson will explore the limits of the human-versus-machine paradigm while highlighting the broad importance of AI technology for human experience and human identity.

This free Roanoke event comes as Virginia Tech is making new strides by building its Innovation Campus in Alexandria. The new campus will focus on the intersection between technology and the human experience, leading the way not just in technical domains but also looking at the policy and ethical implications to ensure that technology doesn’t drive inequity.

When: January 23, from 2 to 3:30 p.m

Where: The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center | 110 Shenandoah Ave NE | Roanoke

What: Talk on the future of AI and what it means for humans by Sylvester Johnson, the founding director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities,  and a nationally recognized humanities scholar specializing in the study of technology, race, religion, and national security. Johnson is also assistant vice provost for the humanities at Virginia Tech and executive director of the university’s Tech for Humanity initiative.


Media are invited to attend and record the talk. Johnson will be available for interviews following the event.

Media Relations contact: Jordan Fifer | jordanfifer@vt.edu | 540-231-6997

Event on-site contact: Robyn Smith | robyn@vt.edu | 540-767-6096

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