Finn Brunton on How Our Fear of AI Relates to Our Fears of Our Own Nature

AI, especially in popular culture, is often a jumping-off point for dialogue with ourselves about what the future means, sometimes at the expense of understanding the present. Norbert Wiener, the cyberneticist, who actually played chess against a replica of [chess-playing automaton] El Ajedrecista in the 1950s, often compared the threat of AI (in terms of automation and Cold War military strategy) to the golem, and the sorcerer’s apprentice, and the monkey’s paw—magical objects whose execution of poorly specified desires using unlimited power leads to disaster.

I would suggest that one way to think about the mythic properties of current AI might be the doppelgänger: the sinister reflection embodying our fears about ourselves, in which we can see our own anxieties, desires, and unspoken biases. The truly human part of artificial intelligence is that we can’t resist making it all about us.

Finn Brunton, Assistant Professor, New York University Department of Media, Culture, and Communication
Source: AI: Machines or Magic?

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