Frankenstein and AI
This week on Facebook: Sometime in the early 90s I remarked to my European colleagues that supermarkets were turning us all into ‘battery hens’, in that we were all (however unwittingly) in thrall to the power of ‘marketers’ who exerted influence over our buying habits. I had no thoughts at the time that Artificial Intelligence (AI) would make my remark in the early 90s prescient and how the ‘battery hen’ analogy, when applied to AI, would have an increasing impact on all aspects of our lives.
It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another. Our lives will not be happy, but they will be harmless and free from the misery I now feel. Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
An article written by a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on the Frankenstein AI¹ research project, challenges commonly dystopian narratives around artificial intelligence and hopes that AI could “learn” what it means to be human. The Frankenstein AI project seeks to provoke and broaden conversation around the trajectory of this rapidly emerging technology — perhaps — bringing together the views of all the disciplines involved. Frankenstein AI includes a short video which is worth watching, although whether or not the video in particular (or the project itself) simply confirms the inevitability of Frankenstein’s monster or the naiveté of the human species is another matter².
If there’s a way to prevent the far-off possibility of a killer super intelligence with no regard for humanity, it may begin with making today’s algorithms more thoughtful, more compassionate, more humane. That means educating designers to think through effects, because to our algorithms we’ve granted great power. The Moment When Humans Lose Control Of AI
I take a very dystopian view of AI developments, especially as indicated by the increasing use of AI surveillance by the State of its citizens. The use of AI by the State assumes that it has a benign intent regarding civil society and that such intent extends to any AI that they may encourage the development of. Having a benign intention to the whole of civil society is rarely (if ever) the intent of commercial or political interest, in this they share the influence over a civil society that is increasingly afforded by the use of AI³.
The 19th century Luddites weren’t simply driven by anger at the advent of a new machine age but were responding to the disparity in wealth distribution created by their introduction. The Luddites lived in a time where their seemed no end to the global economic growth of a nation state in which their needs and wants could (perhaps) have been met by such growth. An age when both nationally and globally people were largely unaware of the consequences created by the drive for economic growth. Cassandra Redux
1. Are We Creating A New Frankenstein? Frankenstein was written during the first Industrial Revolution, a period of enormous changes that provoked confusion and anxiety for many. It asked searching questions about man’s relationship with technology: Are we creating a monster we cannot control, are we losing our humanity, our compassion, our ability to feel empathy and emotions?
2. Godmother of intelligences: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s 200-year-old creature is more alive than ever. In his new role as the bogeyman of artificial intelligence (AI), ‘the monster’ made by Victor Frankenstein is all over the internet. The British literary critic Frances Wilson even called him ‘the world’s most rewarding metaphor’. Though issued with some irony, this title suited the creature just fine.
3. Artificial Intelligence, Real Security Problems? Meet Frankenstein’s Children: It’s the ultimate nightmare scenario: Highly intelligent robots shake off the yoke of their human masters and rebel — often violently and with the aim of eradicating or enslaving humanity. But artificial intelligence (AI) solutions have been in development for years and the worry of a “Frankenstein’s Monster” scenario is virtually nonexistent.
4. What an artificial intelligence researcher fears about AI: As an artificial intelligence researcher, I often come across the idea that many people are afraid of what AI might bring. It’s perhaps unsurprising, given both history and the entertainment industry, that we might be afraid of a cybernetic takeover that forces us to live locked away, “Matrix”-like, as some sort of human battery.
Referenced Articles Books & Definitions:
- A bold text subscript above and preceding a title below (¹·²·³), link to (usually free) content.
- Links (without superscript) and in italics reference the intended context of words used.
- Links without superscript and not in italics reference a source.
- A long read url* is followed by a superscript asterisk.
- Brackets containing a number reference a particular included article (1-5).
- Occasionally Open University (OU) free courses are cited.
- JSTOR lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 6 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.
¹A Monster Made by Many: Marking the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s seminal work, Frankenstein AI: a monster made by many reimagines the Frankenstein narrative, recasting Shelley’s creature as a naive, emotionally aware, and highly intelligent “life form” – an artificial intelligence.
²AI revisited — a misunderstood classic (url): The love we’re seeing, between a mocha and a clone, is a simulacrum, as manufactured as a movie. But if it feels like the real thing to us, what does that tell us about the real thing? In that moment, Spielberg shows us real fear and real wonder, knotted together so tightly it becomes impossible to tell the two apart.
³Frankenstein fears hang over AI (url): Machine learning, a form of advanced pattern recognition that enables machines to make judgments by analysing large volumes of data, could greatly supplement human thought. But such soaring capabilities have stirred almost Frankenstein like fears about whether developers can control their creations.
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