E.g., 07/14/2020
E.g., 07/14/2020

Opening Keynote: Being Human in a World of Supposedly Smart, Digital, Networked Technology

Brett Frischmann

Monday, 25 March, 2019
Free for GALA Members
Free for Non-Members


Humans have been shaped by technology since the dawn of time. Yet techno-social engineering of humans exists on an unprecedented scale and scope, and it is only growing more pervasive as we embed networked sensors in our public and private spaces, our devices, our clothing, and ourselves.

Frischmann will examine how digital networked technologies affect our humanity. Instead of focusing on the doomsday scenario of super-intelligent, sentient AI enslaving humans, Frischmann will focus on how we engineer ourselves, how we outsource critical thinking to supposedly smart tech, and in doing so, risk deskilling ourselves. In short, Frischmann is less concerned with the engineering of intelligent machines than the engineering of unintelligent humans.

He will consider questions such as: When and how do humans become programmable? Can we detect when this happens? How will we evaluate it? What makes us human? What about being human matters?

He will propose a useful framework for examining these issues. Specifically, he will describe a series of reverse Turing tests that explicitly ask when humans are indistinguishable from simple machines with respect to basic capabilities.

Brett Frischmann

Brett Frischmann is the Charles Widger Endowed University Professor in Law, Business and Economics, Villanova University. He is also an affiliated scholar of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, a trustee for the Nexa Center for Internet & Society, Politecnico di Torino, and a Faculty Affiliate of the Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University, Bloomington. He teaches courses in intellectual property, Internet law, privacy, and technology policy. Frischmann is a prolific author, whose articles have appeared in numerous leading academic journals. He has published important books on the relationships between infrastructural resources, governance, commons, and spillovers, including Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources (Oxford University Press, 2012), Governing Knowledge Commons (Oxford University Press, 2014, with Michael Madison and Katherine Strandburg), and Governing Medical Knowledge Commons (Cambridge University Press, Winter 2017, with Michael Madison and Katherine Strandburg). Frischmann also writes for a more general audience, publishing with Scientific American, Science, The Guardian, and many other public outlets. His most recent work examines the relationships between technology and humanity. His book, Re-Engineering Humanity, co-authored with RIT philosophy professor Evan Selinger, was selected as one of The Guardian's Best Books of 2018. This interdisciplinary book rigorously examines the supposedly smart techno-social systems that efficiently govern more and more of our lives. Frischmann also explores these themes in his recently published novel, Shephard's Drone.