Ph.D. position in Philosophy: Reconstructing AI Narratives – Maastricht University (UM) – Maastricht

Maastricht University (UM)

The Ph.D. project will focus on analyzing the metaphors and symbolism that inform Artificial Intelligence narratives and their ethical and political implications. While contemporary debates around AI often center on steering or limiting its impact, less attention is paid to the underlying concepts and their assumed universality. Concepts such as intelligence, humanity, and ethical prerequisites for responsible AI form the bedrock of AI discourse, necessitating critical scrutiny. This project aims to reconstruct the development of these symbolic and conceptual aspects that contribute to the prevailing narratives around AI. In order to do so, it is important to integrate a theoretical approach with an empirical one that involves different stakeholders.

Job Description
The project will adopt a genealogical approach, drawing from pragmatist tradition (e.g., John Dewey) and critical theory (e.g., Axel Honneth). By tracing the semantic history that converge in mainstream AI discourse, the candidate will highlight the specific worldview expressed by AI and embedded in epistemic, economic, and political traditions. However, a purely theoretical approach is not sufficient to generate a change in the narratives and the policies around AI. The PhD candidate will need to engage with a variety of stakeholders in order to maximize the impact of the project in terms of legitimacy and efficacy.

Key questions include examining the influence of AI metaphors on technical and policy discourse and their societal impact, and identifying alternative conceptions to foster a more democratic governance of AI-based systems.

Key Research Questions:
Amongst the possible research questions, the following may be relevant:

  • What are the different meanings shaping the mainstream narrative of AI, and how do they contribute to a specific vision of the world?
  • How do AI metaphors influence policy discourse, and what are their implications for societal cohesion?
  • Can alternative conceptual understandings be identified to establish a more democratic approach to the deployment of AI-based systems?
  • How can we translate these insights into policy recommendations?
  • The PhD candidate will be based 50% in the Philosophy department at FASoS, and 50% at Brightlands Institute for Smart Society (BISS).
    At FASoS the position is embedded in the Maastricht University Science and Technology Studies Research Group (MUSTS). There you will be supervised by Dr. Darian Meacham and Dr. Robert Gianni.

    You will be provided with training on general academic skills in the faculty’s Graduate School. Further training is available through the Dutch national research school in philosophy. As part of this project, you will also work together with a group of other PhD students working topics related to philosophy of technology.

    At BISS, Maastricht University scientists work on innovative and responsible solutions to data challenges. All disciplines and faculties collaborate in applying data science and technology to solve real life societal and business needs. BISS offers to researchers a unique opportunity to understanding the technical development of AI, experimenting in an interdisciplinary setting and interfacing with political institutions.

    The main task will be to complete the PhD in the allotted time.
    The successful candidate is expected to take part to the main activities of the department, the research group (MUSTS) and BISS research group. These include:

  • Publish results at top-tier (international) conferences and in international journals;
  • Assist with educational tasks (e.g., teach at undergraduate level, supervise students and internships);
  • Assist with the organisation of workshops, conferences and meetings;
  • Participate to conferences, workshops and internal meetings and seminars.
  • Requirements
    We are seeking a highly motivated candidate with a MA or Research Master degree, in one or more of the following fields: philosophy of technology, social philosophy, political philosophy, ethics or related ones.
    The ideal candidate should possess excellent analytical and critical thinking skills, with a keen interest in interdisciplinary research.
    Prior experience with genealogical, historical or reconstructive approaches are advantageous.
    More specifically:

  • critical thinking skills
  • analytical skills
  • philosophical skills
  • genealogical or reconstructive methodology
  • interdisciplinary research
  • knowledge of pragmatism
  • knowledge of critical theory
  • Fluent written and oral English
  • What we offer
    As Ph.D. position in Philosophy: Reconstructing AI Narratives at Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences , you will be employed by the most international university in the Netherlands, located in the beautiful city of Maastricht. In addition, we offer you:

  • Good employment conditions. The position is graded in scale P according to UFO profile PhD, with corresponding salary based on experience ranging from €2770,00 and €3539,00 gross per month (based on a full-time employment of 38 hours per week). In addition to the monthly salary, an 8.0% holiday allowance and an 8.3% year-end bonus apply.
  • An employment contract for a period of 12 months with a scope of 1,0 FTE. Upon a positive evaluation, an extension of 3 years will follow.
  • At Maastricht University, the well-being of our employees is of utmost importance, we offer flexible working hours and the possibility to work partly from home if the nature of your position allows it. You will receive a monthly commuting and internet allowance for this. If you work full-time, you will be entitled to 29 vacation days and 4 additional public holidays per year, namely carnival Monday, carnival Tuesday, Good Friday, and Liberation Day. If you choose to accumulate compensation hours, an additional 12 days will be added. Furthermore, you can personalize your employment conditions through a collective labor agreement (CAO) choice model.
  • As Maastricht University, we offer various other excellent secondary employment conditions. These include a good pension scheme with the ABP and the opportunity for UM employees to participate in company fitness and make use of the extensive sports facilities that we also offer to our students.
  • Last but certainly not least, we provide the space and facilities for your personal and professional development. We facilitate this by offering a wide range of training programs and supporting various well-established initiatives such as ‘acknowledge and appreciate’.
  • The terms of employment at Maastricht University are largely set out in the collective labor agreement of Dutch Universities. In addition, local provisions specific to UM apply.

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