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Humans, Nature, and Machines

We are in a crisis of our own design. Our relationship with nature and machines is unsustainable. Greenhouse gas emissions—largely from power generation, transportation, agriculture, and industry—are changing the climate at an alarming rate. We witness these effects daily from melting ice caps to prolonged drought, deforestation, forest fires, plant and animal extinction, rising sea levels, worsening air quality, and an increased rate of emergence of novel infectious diseases. COVID-19, for example, is intensifying economic inequality at the same time as it increases our technological dependence. As automation increases its impact upon more sectors of society, we must ask how jobs—and the lives we build around them—will be transformed. How do we ensure sustainable jobs and how do we optimize our relationship with machines to best serve our values and the planet?  If we are to survive, we need better relationships with nature, machines, and each other.

Great work is currently being done on the human-machine relationship and the human-nature relationship. But few efforts combine these sectors. This multi-year program fills that niche. Applying an interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach to the complex issues related to sustainability, the program brings together community leaders, intellectual historians, social and environmental scientists, engineers and technologists from the academy, industry, the arts, and the public and private sectors. In doing so, the program seeks to support and build ethical relationships among humans, nature, and machines, interrogating these categories and our assumptions along the way. 

This program is led by James Jones with the assistance of Margaret Levi and CASBS Program Director Zachary Ugolnik. A program advisory committee also helps guide the program’s development.

The Humans, Nature, and Machines program received a seed grant from the Ethics, Society, and Technology Hub at Stanford University. 

The program will facilitate workshops, launch a series of research projects, and coordinate the collaboration and outreach among these projects. Currently, the program has helped launch the following projects, each with their own respective funding and leaders:

Towards a Theory of AI Practice
Imagining Adaptive Societies

The Social Science of Caregiving

For more information, please contact CASBS program director Zachary Ugolnik (zugolnik@stanford.edu).


Resources

Fluxus Landscape: An Expansive View of AI Ethics and Governance Fluxus Landscape maps and categorizes about 500 AI ethics and governance stakeholders and actors. Its goals are both practical and artistic: to help the global community interested in AI ethics and governance discover new organizations, and encourage a broader, more nuanced perspective on the AI ethics and governance landscape. You can read the initial launch here.