How do humans make use of devices with artificial intelligence in the home and how do humans change in response to these devices? 

On November 9, 2022, the Bucket Course will feature Professor Karla Erickson and six of her students presenting on “Human and Machine Relations: Nest and AIBO.”  (Nest is a “smart security system” produced by Google; AIBO is a series of robotic dogs designed and manufactured by Sony.)

The event will be held at the Caulkins Room of the Drake Community Library from 10:00-11:30 am on Wednesday November 6.  Admission is free and no preregistration is required.  Donations to support the provision of coffee and cookies are welcomed.

Professor Erickson has offered previous Bucket Courses dealing with the increasing intersection between humans and machines.  In this class, joined by students Jacob Cowan, Quynh Dao, Sherry Ding, Tanmaie Kailash, Aris Reyes, and Alex Sidler, she will follow up on past

lectures by offering a chorus approach to understanding two common machines: a robopet and a smart security system. 

Erickson will lay out the context for machine/human relations and the Internet of Things, what she calls a “weird time in human history.”  Students will then offer their insights into Google’s Nest and robopets.  This 7- person presentation will suggest different ways of considering how the devices that many of us use and live with are altering habits, homes, and humans.

Erickson explains her fascination with the phenomena of human/machine relations: “I am deeply intrigued by the quiet seeping in of machines that have some autonomy and some ‘intelligence’ into our homes.  Usually homes are only available to trusted others, but today we cohabitate with devices that represent corporate interests and that capitalize on human tendencies to anthropomorphize, nurture, and welcome strangers.  We look forward to exploring the social effects of technology together.  We hope participants will ask any questions they have and offer

stories from their own experience with machine cohabitation.”

Karla Erickson is a Professor of Sociology at Grinnell College and an ethnographer of labor.  She studies people in their working worlds and the communities and selves they build through their work.  Most recently she has been working on a book called Drip by Drip: Humans, AI, and Unseen Powers.  She has offered a list of sources on this topic that offer further illumination on these areas; the list is available at

Members of the sponsoring Community Education Cooperative include Grinnell Regional Medical Center, Grinnell College, Drake Community Library, Grinnell-Newburg School District, Grinnell Area Arts Council, Mayflower Community, Grinnell Education Partnership, Read to Lead, and Iowa Valley Community College.  Videos of previous Bucket Courses are available on the YouTube channel Grinnell Community Education Cooperative.

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