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SMC Spring Symposium Focuses on AI


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Santa Monica College
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Santa Monica, CA 90405
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By Lookout Staff

May 3, 2024 -- The Santa Monica College (SMC) Public Policy Institute (PPI) will present a series of free lectures and discussions this month titled “The Promise and Peril of Artificial Intelligence.”

The PPI Spring Symposium -- which takes place May 20 to 23 -- includes discussions on "how artificial intelligence (AI) creates challenges in governing" and a screening of the sci-fi film “The Creator” with an audience Q&A.

The symposium also features a Pardee RAND-led world-building session and a keynote speech by UCLA Professor Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble, co-founder and co-director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry.

“The world’s attention is focused on artificial intelligence and its impact on all aspects of our lives," said PPI co-director and SMC adjunct professor Shari Davis.

"Now is the time to apply a public policy lens and imagine how we can best harness this transformative technology for positive change to the extent possible,” Davis said.

The symposium kicks off Monday, May 20, with a panel discussion moderated by former Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl titled “Governing and Elections in the Age of AI” from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The panelists are Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan and John Robichaux, executive director of UC Berkeley’s Coleman Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership, who provides expertise and training on AI to city governments, including the City of Santa Monica.

They will discuss "how AI creates challenges in maintaining the integrity of elections while also having the potential to impact the functioning of government in positive ways."

On Tuesday, May 21, there will be a screening at 5 p.m. if the "visually stunning" sci-fi “The Creator," set during a war between humans and robots with artificial intelligence.

The screening will be followed by a discussion panel moderated by SMC Public Policy Institute co-director Dr. Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein that poses the question: Is AI propaganda or a Utopian promise?

On the panel are SMC philosophy professor Dr. Amber Katherine, and SMC film students Sebastian Carrasco and Alci Rengifo, hosts of the popular podcast “Breaking the 180.”

The symposium continues Wednesday, May 22, with “World Build led by Pardee RAND Graduate School and SMC Students” from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

World-building is "the act of imagining, designing, and implementing potential futures," event organizers said.

The event presents "a world built by members of the community as they consider artificial intelligence and whether society will enjoy its promise or peril."

The symposium concludes Thursday, May 23, with a keynote address from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. by Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble titled “The Promise and Peril of AI: How Search Engines and AI Reinforce Racism and What We Can Do About It.”

Noble -- a UCLA Professor of Gender Studies, African American Studies and Information Studies -- is the David O. Sears Presidential Endowed Chair of Social Sciences at UCLA and co-founder and co-director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry.

She is the author of “Algorithms of Oppression” (NYU Press), which examines "the racist and sexist algorithmic harm in commercial search engines" and a co-editor of “The Intersectional Internet: Race, Sex, Class and Culture” and “Emotions, Technology & Design.”

A board member of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, Noble was recognized in 2021 as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and received the NAACP-Archewell Digital Civil Rights Award in 2022.

The event will be followed by a book signing.

The symposium -- presented by PPI and the SMC Associated Students in collaboration with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) -- takes place at the SMC Student Services Center Orientation Hall (SSC 183), SMC Campus, 1900 Pico Boulevard.

Guests who need an accommodation due to a disability to participate in any of the events should send email to or call 310-434-4173, at least 5 business days in advance.

All presentations are subject to change without notice.

More information is available at or by calling 310-434-3541.

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