Lender faculty member Bhan examines social justice implications of artificial intelligence

How are AI weapon systems transforming warfare and surveillance activities and heightening human social and political vulnerabilities to violence?

That’s the question Mona Bhan, associate professor of anthropology at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, will explore with an interdisciplinary team of students and faculty as part of her Lender Center for Social Fellowship project. Justice. Bhan was recently selected as the center’s 2022-24 faculty member.

Mona Bhan

Bhan studies artificial intelligence (AI) weapons through the lens of a cultural anthropologist, convinced that these systems can transform the realities of autonomy, accountability, human rights and justice.

While proponents of AI weapons emphasize the humanitarian benefits of autonomous systems in wars, opponents take a human rights-centric approach focused on the importance of maintaining human control over the use of technology. strength, she said.

“This project challenges the unchallenged assumptions of humanitarianism and human rights claims and examines how technologies are reconfiguring what it means to be human and transforming global negotiations about free will, autonomy, responsibility, societal harm, citizenship and sovereignty,” Bhan said.

The research team will use collaborative documentation, GIS mapping, and immersive media techniques to study precisely how weapons and artificial intelligence systems can drive social and political change. Bhan will lead the project with other university professors, academic centers such as the Autonomous Systems Policy Institute and a new group of Lender Center scholarship students to analyze and disseminate findings on the implications of AI for justice. social. The project is part of a larger research and advocacy project that Bhan is leading with her longtime collaborator, Haley Duschinski, of Ohio University.

Solution of the problem

The Lender Center for Social Justice promotes dynamic, multidisciplinary collaborations supporting the development of courageous and ethical scholars and citizens at the University to foster proactive, innovative, and interdisciplinary approaches to issues related to social justice, equity and inclusion. Professors and scholarship students are supported for one year of research activity aimed at identifying a problem and a second year of finding solutions or changing conversations about the problems they have identified.

Relevant to Syracuse

The center’s co-director, Gretchen Purser, an associate professor of sociology at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, says Bhan’s project is particularly relevant to the university’s past and present.

“Mona is an exemplary scholar-activist with a deep commitment to engaged and collaborative research on human rights issues,” says Purser. “What’s particularly compelling about his project is its global focus, but with clear ties to the local Syracuse community, both as a site of weaponry innovation of AI and as a long-time incubator of anti-war activism.”

impatient woman

Gretchen Purser

“The Lender Center’s selection of Dr. Bhan as its next faculty member supports her work as she and her thought partners, here on campus and outside the University, work to expand the dialogue public on a number of vital issues that social justice scholars must address whenever human rights are at stake,” says the center’s co-director, James Haywood Rolling Jr., professor of arts education at the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

impatient man

James H. Rollings Jr.

At the Maxwell School, Bhan is the Ford-Maxwell Professor of South Asian Studies; Director of the Extractive, Environment and Citizenship Working Group and Senior Research Associate and Advisory Board Member of the South Asia Center. His research explores economic and infrastructural development in counterinsurgency operations and resistance movements in times of protracted war and conflict. Other interests include border wars and counterinsurgency; militarism and humanitarianism; race, sex and religion; environmentalism and climate change; occupation and human rights; space and place; and water and infrastructure in Kashmir.

Before coming to Syracuse in 2019, Bhan taught at DePauw University as the Otto L. Sonder Jr. Professor of Anthropology. She earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Rutgers University in 2006, an M.Sc. in Anthropology from Delhi University, India in 1999 and a B.Sc. in Zoology from Delhi University in 1997.

Applications for student scholarships

The Lender Center is now accepting applications from scholarship students for the 2022-24 term. The scholarships are open to all Syracuse University students who can commit to the project for two years. Five students will be selected and will receive an annual stipend.

The application deadline for scholarship students is Tuesday, November 1. An in-person information session will be held on Tuesday, October 11 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 151 Eggers Hall. More information on the application process and a link to the application page can be found on the Lender Center website.

Lender project 2021-2023

The 2021-2023 scholarship project is led by Associate Professor Seyeon Lee of the College of Visual and Performing Arts School of Design and focuses on access to health and well-being for women. She and scholarship students examine and inform local efforts to create a more equitable, sustainable, and inclusive healthcare system in central New York. Their work explores the social determinants of health and well-being and the impact of these issues on women living in the diverse Northside neighborhood of Syracuse.

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