SCS-9: Future Most Vivid: Creating the Conditions for Human-AI Collaboration in Classical Studies

  In-Person   SCS Session   Panel


Patrick Burns, New York University; Clifford Robinson, Independent Scholar


Sebastian Heath, New York University


Patrick Burns, New York University


The recent release of OpenAI's GPT-4 computational text-generation model and its ChatGPT interface has provoked widespread debate in the media and online about the potential for the latest generation of artificial intelligence (AI), reliant upon deep learning (DL), deep neural networks (DNN) and large language models (LLMs), to disrupt long-standing practices of teaching and research in higher education (Pearce 2023; McMurtrie 2023; D'Agostino 2023). While pioneering work on the role of AI in research relating to Classical Studies dates back to the 1990s (Viret-Bernal 1992; Rodrigues 1993), more recent work has introduced concepts from AI research to develop theoretical readings of Athenian drama (Gerolemou 2018) and of Greek hexameter verse (Lather 2018). Specialized projects on epigraphy (Assael, Sommerschield, and Prag 2019; Assael et al. 2022) and Homeric verse (Lamar and Chambers 2019), by deploying DL and DNNs, have already achieved impressive results within the discipline, while adjacent fields have begun to explore the application of the very latest technology both in the college classroom (Niemi, Pea, and Lu 2023) and in scholarship on literary hermeneutics (Mayaffre and Vanni 2021; Neuman, Danesi, and Vilenchik 2023). It is then timely to consider what potential this new technology holds for transforming the field of Classical Studies; as August Böckh wrote at a discipline-defining moment for philology: "No methodology is out of scope if it allows us to draw meaning from the words of the past." (cf. Böckh 1877; also Crane, Dee, and Krohn 2014). We need to come together and discuss AI - that is, we need to think constructively, creatively and expansively, but also critically about the implications of these emerging technologies (e.g. Broussard 2019; Christian 2020; Larson 2021). AI is very much in scope for the foreseeable future of the field.

This panel proposes to introduce as case studies several ways in which researchers have begun to deploy new AI models and interfaces and instructors have begun to introduce the technical and theoretical entailments of an AI-inflected Classical Studies. We propose this forum in order to promote scholarly debate within the field on the general role - and transformative role - which this technology may come to play in our scholarship, research, and teaching.