Eric Wolf Lectures

The international ERIC WOLF LECTURES are jointly organised by the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Vienna, the Institute for Social Anthropology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and the International Research Center for Cultural Studies IFK. The lectures have been taking place every second year since 2002 and annually since 2008. The invitation to the Eric Wolf Lecture honours an anthropologist for special scientific accomplishments. At the same time, the lectures serve to constructively develop Eric Wolf’s legacy of a cosmopolitan and timely social and cultural anthropology. Eric Wolf (born 1923 in Vienna, died 1999 in New York), McArthur Prize laureate, member of the American Academy of Fine Arts and Sciences and Dr. h.c. of the University of Vienna, is considered one of the most outstanding anthropologists of the 20th century (Silverman in Gingrich, Fillitz & Musner 2007). Proceedings of the first Eric Wolf Lecture were published as a book in German (including, among other contributionss, the lecture held by Marshall Sahlins, an article by Eric Wolf and an article by Sydel Silverman on Eric Wolf’s work and life). Since 2004, the Eric Wolf Lectures are published in Current Anthropology, one of the most renowned anthropological journals. Since 2006 the Eric Wolf Lecture is followed by a small seminar at the IFK, giving an interested audience the chance to reflect and discuss the lecture with the invited researcher.

16th Eric Wolf Lecture

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Climate Change: Some Anthropological Questions

by Akhil Gupta

  • 24.10.2023, 7pm
  • Kleiner Festsaal, UniVie

Depending on your perspective, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is either going to save the world or destroy it. In this talk, I look at the promise and perils of using AI in the arena of climate change through an analysis of the energy and infrastructural sectors. AI can help mitigate climate change in different ways but also enables the main actors of the carbon economy, including the tech companies, to promote misconceptions about climate change for their own benefit. AI “solutions” to the climate crisis are ultimately dependent on the categories in which data is collected for algorithmic operations. What are the implications for AI of the anthropological truism that different cultures and societies classify the world in different ways? How would a postcolonial and decolonial AI challenge the basic presuppositions on which solutions to the climate crisis are being thought?