Keynote Sherry Turkle: Who Do We Become When We Talk to Machines?

KEYNOTE | PLENARY SESSION 2 | Tuesday, August 20, 16:45-18:00 | Auditorium 1 (1441-011)


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sherry Turkle is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, and the founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Professor Turkle received a joint doctorate in sociology and personality psychology from Harvard University and is a licensed clinical psychologist. Professor Turkle writes on the “subjective side” of people’s relationships with technology, especially computers. She is an expert on culture and therapy, mobile technology, social networking, and sociable robotics. She has written numerous monographies on the impact of new technologies on social relationships,  in particular the New York Times bestseller, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age (2015): Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (2011);   Simulation and Its Discontents (2009); The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (2005);  Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (1997).   Turkle pioneered the research area that came to be known as HRI (Human-Robot Interaction), introducing the all important attention to emotional attachments to robots.  For over two decades has been the internationally most outstanding protagonist of HRI that addresses existential and cultural dimensions of technological change, and showcases the importance of Humanities  expertise for HRI research.

Abstract of lecture

In recent years, programs (robots and chatbots) built on generative AI have offered themselves as companions that care—presented, for example, as potential coaches, psychotherapists, and romantic companions—as artificial intimacy, our new AI. A study of users of these programs makes it clear that adjacent to the question of what these programs can do is another: What are they doing to us—for example, to the way we think about human intimacy, agency, and empathy?

Plenary dialogue

Professor Turkle will deliver her lecture remotely; then she will engage in a live dialogue with two interlocutors,  before addressing questions from the audience.  

Interlocutor 1: Kerstin Fischer, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark

Kerstin Fischer is professor (MSO) for Language and Technology Interaction at the University of Southern Denmark and director of the Human-Robot Interaction Lab in Sonderborg. She has written 3 monographs, 32 journal articles and more than 100 conference and book contributions and is well-anchored to the Human-Robot Interaction scientific community, for instance, as senior associate editor of the journal Transactions in Human-Robot Interaction, as member of the steering committee of the Human-Robot Interaction conference, as Theory & Methods Theme Chair and as Alt.HRI co-chair. Her research focuses on understanding how robots become social actors in interaction. 

Interlocutor 2: Bertram Malle, Brown University, USA

Bertram F. Malle earned his Master’s degrees in philosophy/linguistics (1987) and psychology (1989) at the University of Graz, Austria.  After coming to the United States in 1990 he received his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 1995 and joined the University of Oregon Psychology Department.  Since 2008 he is Professor at the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences at Brown University.  He received the Society of Experimental Social Psychology Outstanding Dissertation award, a National Science Foundation CAREER award, and he is past president of the Society of Philosophy and Psychology. Malle’s research has been funded by the NSF, Army, Templeton Foundation, Office of Naval Research, and DARPA. He has distributed his work in 130 articles and several books, on the topics of  social cognition (intentionality, mental state inferences, behavior explanations), moral psychology (cognitive and social blame, guilt, norms), and human-robot interaction (moral competence in robots, socially assistive robotics).