HUMAC originated in an undergraduate independent study at Siena College. A student approached Prof. Medsker with a proposal to canvass the major players and projects in artificial intelligence research impacting our notions of being human. Since then, the organization has evolved into an effort not only to profile ongoing research, but also to bring together a disciplinary mix of professionals, students, scientists and engineers, and scholars from the humanities and social sciences, in discussion of issues they wouldn’t normally consider. In recent years, undergraduate involvement has increased. Various students, inspired by Prof. Medsker's freshman “research in science” seminar at George Washington University, have contributed to HUMAC by summarizing topics in A.I.; helping to organize the AAAI fall symposium series in November 2014 on “The Nature of Humans and Machines: A Multidisciplinary Discourse”; and, in January 2016, presenting a poster at the AAAS annual meeting.
Of central importance to HUMAC is the question: How does A.I. impact our understanding of what it means to be human? The question stems in part from our parallel interest in legal and bioethical notions, such as murder, euthanasia, and disability. We want to understand to what extent live issues in human rights and personhood may be brought to bear on our understanding of machines exhibiting human-level or near-human level intelligence. However, we also believe that answering big questions requires tackling the smaller questions first. Hence, we hope to engage a diverse crowd of experts and students in discussion. Our hope is that by sharing perspectives, brainstorming together, and leveraging each others’ expertise, we are better prepared to make sense of the role that A.I. has to play, both in our changing world and in our individual lives.