Exploring artificial intelligence, androids and the future

By Cheryl Reed, Graduate School

Bodley-mugPULLMAN, Wash. – When your interests are so vast they won’t fit into a master’s thesis – or even a Ph.D. dissertation – what can you do? Antonie “Tonie” Bodley’s solution is an interdisciplinary doctoral degree (IIDP) through the Graduate School at Washington State University.

She will defend her dissertation 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, in Bryan Hall 303.

More than 75 percent of WSU IIDP students who have graduated within the last 10 years are in faculty positions nationwide. Universities appreciate their ability to make connections across disciplinary boundaries, so IIDP graduates are highly sought after.

Tailored to the individual

Bodley thought when she earned her master’s degree and could teach, she’d be content. But when she submitted her master’s thesis topic to her major professor, he told her it was far too big – more of a dissertation topic.

Doctoral student Antonie Bodley.

She pared the focus to gothic literature and steampunk film, but the original “big” topic wouldn’t go away. After teaching for a year in the WSU English Department, it became clear that she needed to pursue an IIDP. Her research? Science fiction and future studies: An exploration of artificial intelligence and androids.

The IIDP is designed to meet the professional interests and research endeavors of each student, requiring the combination of three distinct disciplines. Bodley has been working to make a connection between the cultural and actual application of artificial intelligence in androids. Her research is a combination of philosophy, American studies and English, with committee members from each field.

Possible, preferable, probable futures

“For my research, I studied film theory and watched a lot of science fiction,” Bodley said. “I followed up with the theories, reviews and philosophies behind the movies. I read a lot of philosophy of mind, keeping track of artificial intelligence updates. I follow the big minds, the theorists and developers of humanoid robotics.”

She said that by studying science fiction, we can emulate forward what the merging of the fields of artificial intelligence and humanoid robotics might look like – think of the movies “Terminator” and “AI: Artificial Intelligence.”

Futurist studies – postulating the possible, preferable and probable futures and world views – concern a vast, more complex world system as opposed to a narrower physical sciences perspective. Very few researchers have looked at the theory connecting artificial intelligence and humanoids from a social perspective or at the cultural implications of how we may be changed by that scenario.

Following graduation, Bodley hopes to teach classes on androids or become a consultant for companies that create robotics.

Find out more about the WSU Graduate School’s individual interdisciplinary doctoral program at http://gradschool.wsu.edu/interdisciplinary-degrees.