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More and more often we hear the question “Could AI systems become conscious?” It’s a question of relevance to technologists and philosophers alike, and without a good understanding of “what’s consciousness”, many fall prey to worrisome concerns about the future of AI. Join us for a conversation with AI and philosophy experts on the complexities of intelligence, the nature of consciousness, the role of theory of mind, and the implications on AI’s (and AGI’s) evolving landscape. 

Join us February 2 at the Ann Arbor District Library’s downtown location from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m for interactive activities led by PhD students Zilin Wang and Somayeh Molaei.

Meet the Panelists:

Peter Railton
Peter Railton is the Kavka Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan.  His main research has been in ethics, philosophy of science, and moral psychology, focusing especially on questions about value, objectivity, explanation, and learning. His work includes Facts, Values, and Norms (Cambridge UP, 2003), a collection of essays, and Homo Prospectus (Oxford UP, 2016), an interdisciplinary collaboration with philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science. In the last decade he has been increasingly active on questions concerning artificial intelligence and ethics, work that includes the Uehiro Lectures at Oxford ( and various writings and podcasts.

Joyce Chai
Joyce Chai is a Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Associate Director of the Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS) at the University of Michigan. Her research interests span from natural language processing and embodied AI to human-AI collaboration. Her current work explores the intersection between language, perception, and action to enable situated communication with embodied agents. She served on the executive board of NAACL and as Program Co-Chair for multiple conferences, most recently ACL 2020. She is a recipient of the NSF Career Award and several paper awards with her students (e.g., Best Long Paper Award at ACL 2010, Outstanding Paper Awards at EMNLP 2021 and ACL 2023). She is a Fellow of ACL.

Rada Mihalcea
Rada Mihalcea is the Janice M. Jenkins Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan and the Director of the Michigan Artificial Intelligence Lab. Her research interests are in natural language processing, with a focus on multimodal processing and computational social sciences. She is an ACM Fellow, a AAAI Fellow, and served as ACL President (2018-2022 Vice/Past). She is the recipient of a Sarah Goddard Power award (2019) for her contributions to diversity in science, and the recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers awarded by President Obama (2009).