Artificial Friends: This webpage is designed to support our ‘Artificial Friends’ funding application

Background to the Application

The rapidly increasing advancement in technology such as artificial intelligence, creates both opportunities and challenges in developing our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Big Questions and real-world problems that touch on issues of human personhood and the nature of reality seldom have simple agreed-upon answers.

“What does it mean to be good with knowledge”? “What does it mean to be smart”? “Can an artificial friend alleviate loneliness”? As we start interacting with emerging technologies more frequently, such questions and epistemic puzzles will become further intertwined with these technologies, determining how we approach them and influencing outcomes.

This project invites university students, student engineers and journalists to ask questions and explore the boundaries between the mind and brain and between the machine and human person. To progress and advance the epistemic agency of students it is necessary to create a stimulating space for multidisciplinary dialogue that leads to new developments in the creation and study of knowledge, improvements in digital transparency, and the creation of innovative solutions to real-world problems. 

In the spirit of co-creation, students will have the opportunity to work together exploring questions and epistemic puzzles linked to emerging technologies. Some will co-create prototypes as a way to illustrate opportunities and problems they have addressed.

Project Plan and Proposed Timeline

If our funding bid is successful we will run the research across three years.

In Year 1 we will work with student engineers to investigate ways to use Gen AI personas and stimulus animations to encourage them to seek collaboration with students in other specialisms. We are calling this phase, Study Mate.

In year 2 we will establish a multi-institutional research project to test the efficacy of working across disciplines as a way to increase students’ epistemic insight and practical wisdom online. This phase uses tools and pedagogies that are described in our proposed ‘knowledge labs’ project. In parallel we will complete the data collection for Study Mate that we began in Year 1.

In Year 3 we will complete our designs of prototype tools including EI Search. EI Search and Knowledge Labs are illustrated in this video

Knowledge Labs and EI Search

One of our aims is to encourage greater transparency in the design of GenAI applications by working with students who are learning to be AI designers. Another aim is to work with students drawn from across HE disciplines to explore new ways to develop their epistemic insight and practical wisdom online through reflective interactions with advanced technologies.