Edward Jones-Imhotep's Academic Activities: Creativity, ChatGPT and the History of Black Androids

October 18, 2023 by Dr. Pamela Fuentes Peralta

Edward Jones-Imhotep, Director of the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, is on research leave and has been active in various academic activities recently.  On October 3rd, he participated in a panel discussion titled "Creativity in the Age of ChatGPT." The panel featured diverse voices from the tech industry, journalism, the arts, and higher education, including Min Li Chan (essayist and technologist), Rishi Jaitly (Distinguished Fellow, Virginia Tech Center for Humanities), and Helena Sarin (engineering artist). They discussed how generative AI, specifically ChatGPT, will alter how we define, understand, and practice creativity in the future. The panel was co-sponsored by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, Princeton Public Library, and the National Humanities Center.

On October 4th, Jones-Imhotep gave a talk titled "The Black Androids and the Technological Underground," where he explored the history of black technological experience in 19th and early 20th century America. The talk focused on the history of black androids or automata in the form of black humans that were produced, purchased, and displayed across four continents. These machines were part of a culture of minstrelsy that portrayed Black people in pastoral, leisurely, and non-technological roles, supporting the myth of Black technological disingenuity. However, the talk highlighted how the same technologies that drove the androids' racist depictions also played a crucial role in Black technological experiences, agency, and selfhood in 19th and early 20th century New York.

He is also one of the 2023-2024 Chancellor Jackman 6-month Faculty Research Fellows in the Humanities. As part of this fellowship, he will work on a project titled "The Black Androids: History and the Technological Underworld," which explores the history of black androids or automata in the form of black humans. The project will be part of the intellectual life of the Jackman Humanities Institute.