Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Forever Making the Same Point About Human Agency Denied by Robot Discourse (Twitter Edition)

Pay attention in the following to the phrases "at risk from technology" and "draw its own conclusions" and then think for a moment, especially if you would otherwise read right over those passages and find them perfectly unproblematic otherwise: Are there political consequences in so doing? What might be obscured when those phrases are taken as straightforward descriptions of "forces" at play in human history?

Setting aside those who simply indulge in uncritical celebrations over the wholesomeness or inevitability of these techno-triumphalist narratives, what I find striking is that many who would otherwise engage in useful resistance to these developments by organizing labor or critically interrogating plutocratically-biased rationalizations are instead wringing their hands over phantoms of robocalypse that amount to an acquiescence no less reactionary in effect than the antics of the most facile celebrants. Again and again and again I insist: find the responsible humans who are coding and designing and funding and deploying techniques to accomplish violent or exploitative outcomes. Technology mediates and facilitates political relations among humans. Do not comply uncritically in the displacement of culpability from responsible actors onto "technological protagonists." There is no such thing as artificial intelligence or agentic robots, and pretending otherwise always deranges one's sense of human responsibilities. Always. Every time.


Elias Altvall said...

I hate the fact that people have no sense of responsiblility any more. I mean blaming technology for faults that has existed for thousands of years is really idiotic. It's like blaming the composite bow for the mongolian conquests and massacres during the middle ages or saying how the iron sword was responsible for the Roman empire.

Chad Lott said...

Honestly, if most retail workers feel about customers the way I did, a TI-85 calculator would make a better predictor of customer preferences.