For centuries, people have imagined smart machines inhabiting the earth in fictional stories. Computer systems now communicate in speech and text, learn, negotiate, and work in teams (with people and other systems). These intelligent-systems capabilities raise questions about the effects of such systems on people, their communities and societies at large. This talk will describe some basic Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques in the context of (science) fiction imaginings and examine their strengths and weaknesses, with the goal of illustrating ways to distinguish fact from fiction. The talk will also discuss ethical challenges these technologies pose, and examine the roles of design and of policy in increasing benefit and reducing potential negative impacts.

Barbara J. Grosz

Barbara J. Grosz is Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. From 2001-2011, she served as Dean of Science and then Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. Grosz’s many seminal contributions to AI in the areas of natural-language processing and multi-agent systems include establishing the research field of computational modeling of discourse, developing some of the earliest computer dialogue systems, pioneering models of collaboration, and the development of collaborative multi-agent systems and collaborative systems for human-computer communication. She is also known for her leadership in AI, her role in the establishment and leadership of interdisciplinary institutions and contributions to the advancement of women in science.

Grosz is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a corresponding fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and she is a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is recipient of the University of California, Berkeley Distinguished Alumna Award in Computer Sciences and Engineering (1997), the ACM/AAAI Allen Newell Award (2009), and the 2015 IJCAI Research Excellence Award.

Grosz holds a doctoral degree and a master’s degree from the University of California; and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.

Phi Beta Kappa Society

Founded in 1776, the Phi Beta Kappa Society is the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society. It has chapters at 286 colleges and universities and more than half a million members throughout the country. Its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression. Theta of Texas Chapter, sheltered by Southwestern University, was installed on March 25, 1995.

Southwestern University

Southwestern is a selective, nationally recognized undergraduate liberal arts and sciences university located in Georgetown, Texas. Established in 1840, it is the first  institution of higher learning in Texas. Southwestern’s residential campus offers a true liberal arts education with small classes and numerous collaborative undergraduate research opportunities. Its academic offerings include Paideia, an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to study, and close faculty-student collaboration. Students volunteer in the community at more than twice the national average and our scholar-athletes compete on one of 20 NCAA Division III varsity teams. For more information, visit