N. Katherine Hayles: Do LLMs Understand Humans and Their Questions, or Are They “Stochastic Parrots”?


Time: 18 November, 14:30 CET
Venue: Østre, Østre Skostredet 3
The lecture will not be streamed

Evidence is mounting that Large Language Models (LLMs) of large enough scale, on the order of GPT-4, possess an array of reasoning powers as well as theory of mind that enables them to predict not just the next word in a sequence (their explicit task) but also human behaviours and modes of thinking. This talk will analyse some of the latest research on this question, focusing on potential contributions and risks of LLMs to human societies, including the limitations of LLMs and their “hallucinations”. In addition, it will propose ways that literary analysis and criticism can contribute to the enterprise of creating human-aligned values for LLMs, and will present ideas for using LLMs to enrich writing and literature in classrooms.   


N. Katherine Hayles is the Distinguished Research Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the James B. Duke Professor Emerita from Duke University.  Her research focuses on the relations of literature, science and technology in the 20th and 21st centuries.  Her twelve print books include Postprint: Books and Becoming Computational (Columbia, 2021), Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconscious (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2017) and How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis (Univ. of Chicago Press 2015), in addition to over 100 peer-reviewed articles.  Her books have won several prizes, including  The Rene Wellek Award for the Best Book in Literary Theory for How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Literature, Cybernetics and Informatics, and the Suzanne Langer Award for Writing Machines.  She has been recognized by many fellowships and awards, including two NEH Fellowships, a Guggenheim, a Rockefellar Residential Fellowship at Bellagio, and two University of California Presidential Research Fellowships.  She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She is currently at work on Cognizing Others:  Human Futures with Our Nonhuman Symbionts.

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Image: N. Katherine Hayles