Artificial Intelligence and the
Future of Being Human

A Deerfield Forum / April 11, 2023
7:00 PM / Hess Auditorium

As part of our ongoing and collective work as an educational institution dedicated to student thriving and a commitment to free and open inquiry and expressive freedom, Head of School John Austin and the Deerfield Academy Academic Affairs Office are pleased to present the second annual Deerfield Forum: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Being Human. This year’s Forum, an all-Academy event, will take place on April 11 at 7:00 pm in the Hess Auditorium.

As an institution, Deerfield has long believed that diverse perspectives fuel creative and innovative thinking and build empathy and consideration. To continue to encourage schoolwide discussion and ensure diverse perspectives on issues of contemporary urgency, we are excited to continue the Deerfield Forum, which was first proposed by longtime Academy history teacher Joe Lyons to provide regular, sustained, and, in some instances, required opportunities for listening and conversation among the student body.

The Forum models scholarly and civic engagement; and, by staging conversations among scholars, professionals, and civic leaders, promotes constructive dialogue and active open-mindedness—a defining feature of Deerfield’s intellectual culture.

Students, Please Come Prepared!

Before April 11, please read, watch, or listen to at least one source below. Then draft a question to bring to the forum. You might get a chance to ask our speakers about it!

Have you just started thinking about AI and want to learn what all the buzz is about?

Interested in ethics and AI?

Concerned about the spread of misinformation or disinformation in the era of AI?

AI is changing teaching and learning. Do you want to learn more about the future of education in the age of AI?

Have you considered what happens when humans get attached to chatbots?

Interested in AI’s potential as assistive technology for the disability community?

2023 Moderator and Panelists


Steven Johnson

Called a “deep thinker and a gifted storyteller” by the New York Times, Steven Johnson is the author of 13 books on the history of science, technology, and innovation, including The Ghost Map, Where Good Ideas Come From, and most recently, Extra Life: A Short History Of Living Longer. He is also the host and co-creator of the Emmy-winning PBS/BBC series How We Got To Now and Extra Life. He is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, and the host of the podcast The TED Interview. Johnson was chosen by Prospect magazine as one of the Top Ten Brains of the Digital Future, and The Wall Street Journal called him “one of the most persuasive advocates for the role of collaboration in innovation.” Johnson is currently serving a one-year term as a Visiting Scholar at Google Labs. He lives in Brooklyn, NY, and Marin County, CA, with his wife and three sons. Read Johnson’s “AI Is Mastering Language. Should We Trust What It Says.” 

Melanie Mitchell, PhD

Melanie Mitchell is a researcher, educator, and award-winning author with unique expertise in artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and complex systems. Mitchell is renowned for her teaching and writing on science and technology; her essays and reviews have appeared in the New York TimesScience MagazineNew Scientist, and Technological Review, among other venues. Mitchell’s 2019 book, Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans, is an in-depth and highly readable study of modern-day artificial intelligence, giving the reader a clear sense of what the field has actually accomplished and how much further it has to go. Mitchell’s online course “Introduction to Complexity” has been taken by over 25,000 students, and is one of Course Central’s “top fifty online courses of all time.” In the research community, Mitchell is well-known for her work on analogy-making, and for the development of the Copycat computer model of analogy in particular (co-authored with Douglas Hofstadter); more recently she has been extending this work to create AI systems that make sophisticated visual analogies. Listen to Mitchell on Bridging the Gaps: A Portal for Curious Minds Podcast. 

Stuart Russell, PhD 

Stuart Russell is a pioneer in the understanding and uses of artificial intelligence (AI), its long-term future, and its relation to humanity. He also is a leading authority on robotics and bioinformatics. He is the author or coauthor of three books on knowledge, reasoning, and machine learning, including the standard textbook on artificial intelligence. Russell is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC-Berkeley. He holds the Smith-Zadeh Chair in Engineering at UC-Berkeley and is Vice-Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Council on AI and Robotics. He is the recipient of many awards and held the Chaire Blaise Pascal in Paris from 2012 to 2014. He is a researcher at a number of research centers, including the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research Lab (BAIR), the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM), and the Synthetic Biology Institute (SBI). He is the founder and Vice-President of Bayesian Logic, Inc., a data analysis start-up under contract with the United Nations to build a new Nuclear Test Ban Treaty global monitoring system. Listen to Stuart Russell’s Reith Lectures on AI. 

Watch the 2022 Deerfield Forum: