Damien Patrick Williams
Department of Science, Technology, and Society
Blacksburg, VA 24061
I’ve spent nearly two decades exploring the intersection of ethics, knowledge, philosophy of mind, religious studies, society and technology, and in 2008 I obtained my first master’s degree in philosophy and religious studies. After working as an adjunct and independent researcher for several years, I had a series of conversations with people such as Dr. Langdon Winner, Dr. Ashley Shew, and Dr. Joseph Pitt, all of whom very strongly implied that I might find myself at home in the field of Science, Technology, and Society. Following these conversations, I applied to Virginia Tech’s STS Program and began my second graduate career, continuing my research into how human values and perspectives get embedded into technological artifacts and systems.
More specifically, my work focuses on how technologies such as algorithms, machine intelligence, and biotechnological interventions are impacted by the values, knowledge systems, philosophical explorations, social structures, and even religious beliefs of human beings. I have consulted with multiple academic, industry-standard-setting, and policy-oriented organizations, including SRI International, Olin College, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, New America, Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, and Virginia Tech’s own Center for the Humanities. I am a member in good standing of the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society, and I have written numerous articles and given dozens of presentations on topics such as how the consideration and treatment of marginalized peoples will affect the creation of so-called artificially intelligent systems and other technosocial structures of future human societies at conferences in areas ranging from philosophy of technology to popular culture studies to AI policy. I have appeared on numerous podcasts and given interviews and comments for national and international publications such as WIRED, the Atlantic, and the Boston Globe on the implications of advanced technology on human societies.
Throughout my life, I’ve sought to help people understand that the stories we tell ourselves about our technologies and our future can and will shape the futures and technologies we create, for good and bad. Because I believe that once we know that, we can do a whole lot more to ensure that those shapes will fit all of us, and not just a privileged few.
- Philosophy of Mind
- Philosophy of Technology
- Artificial Intelligence
- Algorithmic Bias
- Ritual and Occult Studies
- Disability Studies
- Human Biotechnological Intervention
- MS in Science, Technology, and Society, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2018.
- MA in Philosophy and Religious Studies, Georgia State University, 2008.
- BA in Philosophy, Georgia State University, 2005.
—“Consciousness and Conscious Machines: What’s At Stake?” appearing in Papers of the 2019 Towards Conscious AI Systems Symposium, co-located with the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence 2019 Spring Symposium Series (AAAI SSS-19), Stanford, CA, March 25-27, 2019. Edited by Antonio Chella, David Gamez, Patrick Lincoln, Riccardo Manzotti, Jonathan Pfautz.
—“Cultivating Technomoral Interrelations: A Review of Shannon Vallor’s Technology and the Virtues,” appearing in the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 7, no. 2 (2018): 64-69.
—“Deleting the Human Clause: A Review of Ashley Shew’s Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge,” appearing in the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 7, no. 2 (2018): 42-44.
—“Is the Technofix in? Research on the Ecological Impact of Solar Power.” Research on the Ecological Impact of Solar Power (December 12, 2017) (2017).
— “Constructing Situated and Social Knowledge: Ethical, Sociological, and Phenomenological Factors in Technological Design,” appearing in Engineering and Philosophy: Reimagining Technology and Social Progress, edited by Guru Madhavan, Zachary Pirtle, and David Tomblin; published by Springer (forthcoming 2020)
—“Stealing The Light to Write By,” appearing in Spirits of Place; John Reppion, editor; Daily Grail Publishing, Brisbane, Australia; 2016
—“Go Upgrade Yourself,” appearing in Futurama And Philosophy; Courtland D. Lewis and Shaun P. Young, editors; Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, USA; 2013
—“Breathing” appearing in The Immanence of Myth, James Curcio editor; Weaponized Publishers, UK; 2011
Other Creative Works
—“SFF and STS: Teaching Science, Technology, and Society via Pop Culture,” at the Society for the Social Studies of Science 2019 Conference in New Orleans; Session: STS as Critical Pedagogy: Experiments in Undergraduate Teaching and Learning - Part I, with Marissa R. Brandt and Shelby Dietz; organized by Marissa R. Brandt, Shannon Conley, and Emily York
— “The Comics Form;" with Matthew J. Brown; 2019 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2019
— ‘Critical Studies of Diversity & Representation in SF;’ with Jillian Marie Browning, Johnathan Flowers, and Vickie Willis Navarra; 2019 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2019
— ‘Alien Religions in Military Sci-Fi;’ Dragon Con 2019, Military SciFi Track; August 2019
— ‘Challenging Gender & Disability Representation in Star Trek;’ with Johnathan Flowers, Lia Lilley, and Amy Manlapas; 2019 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; August 2019
—2019 Automated Vehicles Symposium, organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Transportation Research Board; Breakout Session 04— Ethical Algorithms for Autonomous Vehicles, Part 1, organized by Nicholas G. Evans (University of Massachusetts Lowell), Pamela Robinson (University of Massachusetts Lowell/Australian National University); Panel: Ethical Algorithms for Autonomous Vehicles; Panelists: Sarah Thornton (Built Robotics), Damien Williams (Virginia Tech), and Duncan Purves (University of Florida), July 2019
— ‘"Any Sufficiently Advanced Neglect is Indistinguishable from Malice": Assumptions and Bias in Algorithmic Systems;’ at the 21st Conference of the Society for Philosophy and Technology; with Clinton Castro and Gordon Hull; May 2019
— ‘AI in Scif-Fi;’ with Kanta Dihal, Andrew Hudson, Lee Konstantinou, and Chris Noessel; at "What Sci-Fi Futures Can (and Can’t) Teach Us About AI Policy;" hosted by New America’s Open Tech Institute in conjunction with Future Tense; May 2019
— ‘Extended Selves: Implications of VR and AR on how We Understand Ourselves and Each Other’ at the 2019 Gender, Bodies, and Technology Conference; April 2019
— ‘Heavenly Bodies: Why Cyborgs Were Always About Disability and Mental Health;’ at the 2019 Gender, Bodies, and Technology Conference; April 2019
—Lunchtime Talk on ‘The Social Construction of Knowledge, Technology, and Engineering;’ at Olin College of Engineering; Invited by Dr. Deb Chachra; April 2, 2019
— ‘Design Bias in AI & Algorithms;’ at The Movement Lab ATL’s Spring 2019 Tech Talks Series; March 2019
— ‘Consciousness and Conscious Machines: What’s At Stake?;’ at the 2019 AAAI Spring Symposium on Towards Conscious AI Systems; March 2019
— ‘SFF and Philosophy of Mind: Teaching Mind and Mindedness via Fictional Nonhuman Intelligences;’ at the Northeast Modern Language Association 50th Anniversary Convention in 2019; Topic Session: Speculative Fiction, Pedagogy, and Social Change; March 2019
— ‘Constructing Situated and Social Knowledges; Ethical, Sociological, and Phenomenological Factors in Technological Design (Expanded);’ at the 2018 Southeastern Ethics and Philosophy of Technology workshop; September 2018
— ‘Supernatural & Religious Elements in Military Sci-Fi;’ Dragon Con 2018, Military SciFi Track; September 2018
— ‘Do Mecha Dream of Electric Sheep?’ with Johnathan Flowers; 2018 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2018
— ‘The Struggle Over Mars: Speculating on the Colonial Future of the Milky Way in Syfy’s The Expanse’ with Johnathan Flowers and Daniel Amrhein; 2018 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2018
— ‘Faith in Science Fiction;’ Dragon Con 2018, SciFiLit Track; September 2018
—Invited Participant at the Decolonizing Mars Unconference; organized by Dr. Lucianne Walkowicz, Baruch S. Blumberg/NASA Chair of Astrobiology at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress; June 2018
— ‘Values and Interdisciplinarity in Technological Design;’ Invited presentation and discussion at the Human Futures and Intelligent Machines Summit, hosted by Dr. Sylvester Johnson at Virginia Tech’s Center for Humanities; June 2018
— ‘Constructing Situated and Social Knowledge: Ethical, Sociological, and Phenomenological Factors in Technological Design;’ at the 2018 Forum on Philosophy, Engineering and Technology; June 2018
—Invited Panel | ‘Bot Phenomenology: What it means to exist with technology, and what it means to exist as technology;’ with Johnathan Flowers, Emma Stamm, and Robin Zebrowski; Theorizing the Web 2018; nathan jurgenson, Conference Chair; April 2018
— ‘Is the Technofix in? Research on the Ecological Impact of Solar Power in the Anthropocene;’ Topic Session: Climate Change and Governance: Risk, Expertise and Embedded Values; at STGlobal 2018; March 2018
— ‘Daoism, Buddhism, and Machine Consciousness;’ Topic Session: Digital Subjectivities; with Allie Briggs, Galen Olmstead, and Emma Stamm; at the2018 ASPECT Graduate Conference at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; March 2018
— ‘Values, Experts, Algorithms, and Bias;’ Guest Lecture at the 2018 Tufts University Science, Technology, and Society Lunch Seminar Series; March 2018
— ‘The Minds of Others: Implications for Human and Nonhuman Persons;’ Topic Session: Philosophy of Technology; with Andrew Wells Garnar, Mary Catherine McDonald, Robert Rosenberger, Ashley Shew, and D.E. Wittkower; at the 2018 American Philosophical Association Eastern Division Conference; Session Chair: Ashley Shew; January 2018
— ‘Comics Studies Roundtable: The Interplay of Creation, Criticism, and Scholarship;’ with Daniel Amrhein, Matt Brown, Kelly Sue DeConnick, John Flowers, Matt Fraction, and Kari Neely; 2017 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2017
— ‘Translating Ghost in the Shell: Roundtable on the American Adaptation;’ with John Flowers and Amy-Elizabeth Manlapas; 2017 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2017
— ‘Roundatble on Diversity & Representation Star Trek;’ with John Flowers and Matt Brown; 2017 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2017
— ‘Science, Ethics, Epistemology, and Society: Gains for All via New Kinds of Minds;’ SRI Technology and Consciousness Workshop Series 2017; August 2017
— ‘A Discussion on Taoism and Machine Consciousness,’ SRI Technology and Consciousness Workshop Series 2017; June 2017
— ‘The Minds of Others: What Will Be Known by and Owed To Nonhuman Persons?‘; SRI Technology and Consciousness Workshop Series 2017; May 2017
— ‘Technology, Disability, And Human Augmentation;’ Guest Lecture for Dr. Ariel Eisenberg’s Graduate Seminar, “American Identities: Disability,” in partnership with the Kennesaw State University Interdisciplinary Studies Department; March 13, 2017
—‘Are You Being Watched? Simulated Universe Theory in “Person of Interest;”‘ Southwest Popular/American Culture Association Conference 2017; Burcu Gurkan, Panel Chair; February 2017
—Reaction Panel, with Sue Lederer and Mahvesh Murad; Frankenstein’s Shadow Symposium 2016; Hosted by Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination; June 2016
—‘On the Moral, Legal, and Social Implications of the Rearing and Development of Nascent Machine Intelligences;’ IEEE Ethics 2016; Philip Chmielewski, Session Chair; May 2016
—‘Presentations of Non-Human Consciousness in Speculative Fiction Media;’ Southwest Popular/American Culture Association Conference 2016; Burcu Gurkan, Panel Chair; February 2016
—Invited Panel | “Under Its Spell: Magic, Machines, and Metaphors;” with Melissa Gira Grant, Karen Gregory, Debbie Chachra, and Ingrid Burrington; Anna Jobin, hashtag moderator; Theorizing the Web 2015; nathan jurgenson, Conference Chair; March 2015
— ‘The Quality of Life: The Implications of Augmented Personhood and Machine Intelligence in Science Fiction;’ The Work of Cognition and Neuroethics in Science Fiction 2015; Zea Miller, Conference Organizer; March 2015
— ‘Plug and Pray: Conceptualizing Digital Demigods and Electronic Angels;’ Magick Codes 2014; Ingrid Burrington, Conference Organizer; December 2014
— ‘Dream Logic And Murder Wizardry;’ with Cleolinda Jones; 2014 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2014
— ‘Stargate as Stories, Myths, and Personal Identity;’ with Richard Scott Nokes; 2014 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2014
— ‘How to Become a Comics Scholar;’ with Matthew J. Brown and Cary Gillenwater; 2013 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2013
— ‘How to Become a Science Fiction Scholar;’ with Vickie Willis; 2013 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2013
— ‘In the In-Between: An Examination of Magic, Perception, and Interstitiality in the Works of China Miéville;’ 2012 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2012
—‘Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point: The Implications of Autonomous Created Intelligence in Speculative Fiction Media;‘ The Machine Question Symposium: AI, Ethics, and Moral Responsibility; David Gunkel and Joanna Bryson, symposium coordinators; July 2012
— ‘Strange Things Happen at the One Two Point: The Implications of Cybernetics & Human Enhancement in SF Media;’ 2011 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2011
— ‘Becoming Our Selves: Jungian Self-Actualisation in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse;’ 2010 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2010
— ‘Western Esotericism in the Modern Popular Mind;’ 2009 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2009
— ‘Seeing the Light: Ethical Egoism in Mike Carey’s Lucifer;‘ 2008 Comics and Popular Arts Academic Conference; Matt Brown, Conference Co-Ordinator; September 2008
Graduate Research Assistant on NSF CAREER Award on “Disability, Experience, and Technological Imagination” (#1750260), running from July 2018 to June 2023; Principal Investigator: Dr. Ashley Shew