Human autonomy, technological automation

AI and Society 37 (1):39-48 (2022)


We continuously talk about autonomous technologies. But how can words qualifying technologies be the very same words chosen by Kant to define what is essentially human, i.e. being autonomous? The article focuses on a possible answer by reflecting upon both etymological and philosophical issues, as well as upon the case of autonomous vehicles. Most interestingly, on the one hand, we have the notion of “autonomy”, meaning that there is a “law” that is “self-given”, and, on the other hand, we have the notion of “automation”, meaning that there is something “offhand” that is “self-given”. Yet, we are experiencing a kind of twofold shift: on the one hand, the shift from defining technologies in terms of automation to defining technologies in terms of autonomy and, on the other hand, the shift from defining humans in terms of autonomy to defining humans in terms of automation. From a philosophical perspective, the shift may mean that we are trying to escape precisely from what autonomy founds, i.e. individual responsibility of humans that, in the Western culture, have been defined for millennia as rational and moral decision-makers, even when their decisions have been the toughest. More precisely, the shift may mean that we are using technologies, and in particular emerging algorithmic technologies, as scapegoats that bear responsibility for us by making decisions for us. Moreover, if we consider the kind of emerging algorithmic technologies that increasingly surround us, starting from autonomous vehicles, then we may argue that we also seem to create a kind of technological divine that, by being always with us through its immanent omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence and inscrutability, can always be our technological scapegoat freeing us from the most unbearable burden of individual responsibility resulting from individual autonomy.

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References found in this work

The Sources of Normativity.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1996 - Cambridge University Press.
The Theory and Practice of Autonomy.Gerald Dworkin - 1988 - Cambridge University Press.
The Sources of Normativity.Christine Korsgaard - 1999 - Philosophical Quarterly 49 (196):384-394.
Against Method.P. Feyerabend - 1975 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 26 (4):331-342.

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