Dr Ross Boyd to Deliver Canadian Mackay Lecture



In February 2019 Hawke EU Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and Network Senior Research Associate, Dr Ross Boyd, will visit Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada as an invited Mackay Lecturer. The annual MacKay Lecture Series features up to four lectures given by internationally renowned speakers, addressing subjects related to the liberal and performing arts. Three of the lectures revolve around a common interdisciplinary theme chosen each year by the Faculty's Research Development Committee from a selection of faculty proposals. The theme of the 2019 MacKay Lecture Series is:  "Learning Machines: Who builds AI? Who benefits?" -and is organized by Karen Foster (Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology) and Darren Abramson (Department of Philosophy). The fourth lecture is on a broadly based historical theme, in recognition of the generous donation funding the lecture series that was given by Gladys MacKay in appreciation of the education that her husband, the Reverend Malcolm Ross MacKay, received at Dalhousie as a B.A. student in History (1927).


In his lecture, Dr Boyd will outline a social theoretical and sociological contribution to debates on social transformations associated with recent and ongoing developments in AI and robotics. In particular he will explore ways beyond current debates that centre on the question of whether AI/robots are or are not emerging as competitors with and supplanters of human beings. While debates organised around this line of argument have generated some useful insights, it is in many ways unhelpful, not the least in terms of analysing social transformations in any nuanced or complex ways - those that do not entail the replacement of human beings but do qualify as genuine and potentially significant instances of social change.

Dr Boyd will also meet with staff at Dalhousie’s Jean Monnet European Union Centre of Excellence, and give a presentation to the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology.

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