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ZeM Spring Lecture “The Mothers of AI? Alan Turing’s Response to Ada Lovelace”

Source: ZeM

While the field of AI is full of “fathers”, “mothers” are noticeably absent. One of the only contenders is the nineteenth-century mathematician Ada Lovelace, who recognized that Babbage’s Analytical Engine, an early model of the computer, could not only crunch numbers but could also manipulate, according to rules, other symbols (for instance, musical notes or letters). For this brilliant insight, she has been recognized by some as the first computer programmer. However, she also pointed out that, although a useful tool, this hypothetical machine could never “create”. Alan Turing objected to her argument and the “fathering” metaphor and his “child machine” has since become ubiquitous in the field. Over seventy years later is it time to revive Lovelace’s insight?

Event at ZeM and livestream via Zoom. Please register via mailzem-brandenburgde.

Moderation: Dr. Katharina Rein, Universität Potsdam

Teresa Heffernan is Professor of English Language and Literature at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS and currently a fellow at the Käte Hamburger Centre for Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Studies at the University of Heidelberg. Her current research is on the science and fiction of robotics and AI. Her books include: the edited collection Cyborg Futures: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Palgrave (2019); Veiled Figures: Women, Modernity, and the Spectres of Orientalism (2016); and Post-Apocalyptic Culture: Modernism, Postmodernism, and the Twentieth-Century Novel (2008). Her articles have appeared in journals such as AI & Society, Studies in the Novel, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Arab Journal for the Humanities, Subject Matters, Canadian Literature, Twentieth Century Literature, and English Studies in Africa.

An event within the ZeM’s annual focus on “Digital Realities”.


Teresa Heffernan (Saint Mary's University, Canada)

Registration and Costs

Yes , Register until 09.02.2023

Event Type


Subject Field

Anglistik und Amerikanistik
Informationsverarbeitung und Kommunikation
Künste und Medien
Philosophische Fakultät
Uni findet Stadt


Wissenschaftliche Einrichtungen


09.02.2023, 18:00
09.02.2023, 20:00
Event at ZeM and livestream via Zoom. Please register via


ZeM – Brandenburgisches Zentrum für Medienwissenschaften


ZeM – Brandenburgisches Zentrum für Medienwissenschaften
Hermann-Elflein-Straße 18
14467 Potsdam


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Hermann-Elflein-Str. 18
14467 Potsdam

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