Roundtable at Tacit Engagement in the Digital Age, 27 June 2019
- Chair: Victoria Vesna (Art|Sci UCLA, USA)
- Dietrich Brandt (RWTH Aachen, Germany)
- Kathleen Richardson (De Montford University, Leicester)
- Stephen Cave (Centre for the Future of Intelligence/CFI, University of Cambridge)
Dietrich Brandt and Malenka de Lamotte
Enlightenment: The Past, the Presence and Our Futures
The Cave Parable suggested by Plato may be considered the Model of Enlightenment. Let us imagine a large, deep cave (see Figure). People are chained down in a way that they even cannot turn their heads around. Behind them, a large fire is blazing and a wall has been erected. Some servants are carrying different things held upright: sculptures of people and animals, etc. Their shadows are projected over the wall onto the rear rock face of the cave visible for the people in chains.
The exit of the cave is beyond and above the fire toward the sun. Some people go around the wall and start climbing-up towards sunlight and the real world. Subsequently they may return to tell their companions in chains what they have seen. Those, however, may not believe them.
During the past centuries, enlightenment has been successfully following Plato’s model of understanding our world: individuals (researchers, engineers, physicians, poets, artists and philosophers etc.) have made their way to the sun and when returning they have often been considered outsiders and even enemies.
But our world has fundamentally changed during the last 20-30 years through digitization. Within seconds, everybody can call up at any time and at any place all facts and the truth about the world and about ourselves. We all may, thus, be enlightened – there are two problems, however:
- Within the web, people create their own cave – or bubble – of communication: once again, they trust only those within their cave, not outsiders whom they consider their enemies.
- The world population continues to grow nearly exponentially and we are living as if 1.6 planets would be available.
A new enlightenment would be required fighting anti-enlightenment today.
Property Relations: From Companion Robots and AI to Sex Robots
Since the early 2000s roboticists and AI researchers began to promote an idea that machines could replace intimate relationships. Rather than the social sciences and humanities challenging these practices or presenting a robust defence of human relationships, researchers in these disciplines also went along with these ideas and rejected defending humans as distinct from artefacts, arguing through cyborgs and ANT theories that 'everything is connected' and differences between humans and machines were artificial and socially constructed. Tracing the early origins of these ideas from robotic labs at MIT to sex robots this talk explores the problems of anti humanist theories to challenge the property structure, instead helping the economics elites along to colonise new frontiers of the interpersonal relationship.
Intelligence as Ideology: Its History and Future
The notion of intelligence has always been political, in that is has been used consistently to establish and enforce systems of power and privilege. This talk will begin with a historical overview of this, from Aristotle to the 11+, showing the role that assessment of intelligence has played in establishing hierarchies including patriarchy and colonialism. It will then ask what this legacy means in the age of intelligent machines, arguing that this history is distorting the current debate about the ethics and impact of AI. In particular, it will examine the focus on automation and middle-class jobs, the cult of brilliance in the technology sector, and the fear of artificial super-intelligence.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this recording belong solely to the speakers and do not necessarily represent the views of CRASSH or the University of Cambridge.