New fellowship explores artificial intelligence and society

March 27, 2023

With advancements in natural language processing, artificial intelligence has the potential to generate written content that is indistinguishable from human writing, blurring the lines between what is produced by machines and what is produced by humans. The intersection of AI and society is no longer a hypothetical discussion — the previous sentence was generated by the popular AI chatbot ChatGTP. 

This concept is one of many topics that will be discussed in a new fellowship opportunity offered in partnership between Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the New York Academy of Sciences. Three postdoctoral research scholars will join an interdisciplinary team as they participate in a program that combines education and training experiences relating to AI and society. The application deadline is April 25.  AI-generated illustration depicting people sitting around a table. This image was created by the Shutterstock AI Image Generator by typing in "human learning about AI and society" as the prompt. Photo by Shutterstock Download Full Image

“Even today, many people still envision AI as something that belongs in the same future as flying cars and Terminators,” said David Guston, professor and founding director of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. “Experts disagree about how AI will play out in the future, but many aspects of it are already ingrained in our everyday lives, from the image and voice recognition on our phones to the use of algorithms to cater to our interests online, to how expert systems and large language models upset work relationships, including in the classroom.” 

The fellows will split their time between New York City, ASU and public- and private-sector internship sites. Throughout the full-time, fiscal-year appointment, the fellows will also engage with mentors and receive programmatic support from ASU and the New York Academy of Sciences.

The program will onboard fellows in fall 2023 and is planned to continue into a second year, when the fellows will use their experiences by teaching at ASU. Other fellowship activities include internships and research projects to be presented via academic journals, conferences and workshops. 

“The New York Academy of Sciences is thrilled to launch this unique partnership with Arizona State University, a leader not only in innovative approaches to education but in the study of the future of technology and its multiple impacts on society,” said Nicholas Dirks, president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences. “AI is transforming our society at lightning speed, and it is essential that we gain a better understanding of its implications across almost every sector.” 

As AI continues to develop and embed itself further in society, it brings endless possibilities in fields such as health care, robotics and transportation. It also brings ethical questions in regard to privacy, bias and displacement. 

“As far as we’ve seen AI develop in the last few years, we haven’t seen a proportionate response in exploring the social, economic, cultural and ethical issues that come with its application,” said Guston, who will oversee the program. “This fellowship is a partial but important response to that need.” 

Fellowship applicants must have a PhD in a relevant field; evidence of a strong research background; and expertise in the field of AI and society, including publications in leading academic journals. 

Katelyn Reinhart

Communications specialist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory

ASU professor examines multilingualism in baseball

First book-length study to look at language diversity in professional sports

March 27, 2023

America’s pastime has grown significantly since its inception in the 1830s and now can be found worldwide, with players from more than 20 countries playing in U.S. professional baseball.

At the beginning of the 2022 Major League Baseball season, there were 275 international players on Opening Day rosters, the second most in league history. Front cover of the book Multilingual Baseball: Language Learning, Identity and Intercultural Communication in the Transnational Game, which features baseball players running up steps onto the field. Associate Professor Brendan O’Connor's professional background as a linguistic anthropologist and avid baseball fan sparked the idea to dive deeper into multilingualism in baseball. Photo courtesy: Brendan O'Connor Download Full Image

With the game's growth, diverse cultures and languages have intertwined into the sport.

Multilingual Baseball: Language Learning, Identity, and Intercultural Communication in the Transnational Game,” by School of Transborder Studies Assistant Professor Brendan O’Connor, is the first book-length study on language diversity in professional sports.

“It’s a big-picture view of language in professional baseball. It starts with a historical perspective on the presence of players from different racial and ethnic backgrounds and also speakers of different languages dating back to the beginning of baseball in the U.S.,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor’s professional background as a linguistic anthropologist and avid baseball fan sparked the idea to dive deeper into multilingualism in baseball.

“I’ve done a lot of work with bilingual students and families, mostly in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands in Arizona and Texas looking at language learning and identity and communication,” O’Connor said. “I’m a huge baseball fan and wrote a short article about the topic. It got the attention of other media and some professional teams asking for more research on this.”

Research for the book, funded by ASU’s Global Sports Institute Seed Grant, included firsthand observations in baseball environments in the U.S. and the Dominican Republic, and interviews with current and former players, coaches, front office personnel, international scouts, language teachers and interpreters with baseball experience in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, South Korea, Taiwan and the U.S.

 stands outside a Kansas City Royals baseball team facility.

Brendan O'Connor

The book shows the daily interactions with linguistic and cultural differences on the field, in the clubhouse and in communities worldwide by delving into “social issues in diverse societies by connecting interactions with baseball to broader challenges” and invites the reader “to consider what we can learn from the bilingual understandings that arise in everyday baseball interactions,” according to the book’s description.

O’Connor hopes his book can help bridge a gap between people’s identities and cultures and create a shared understanding.

“American baseball, in many ways, is a microcosm of the U.S. itself,” he said. “It’s this fishbowl where we can see all of these conversations and tensions around demographic change, immigration and multilingualism playing out in a way that is, on the one hand, unique to baseball but, on the other hand, has a lot in common with these bigger discussions.”

“How can observing those dynamics in baseball and seeing it play out on a baseball diamond help us to understand a little bit better what’s happening in society at large?”

Stephen Perez

Marketing and Communications Coordinator, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences