Artificial intelligence and society: a furtive transformation [Book Review]

AI and Society 28 (1):107-115 (2013)
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Abstract

During the 1950s, there was a burst of enthusiasm about whether artificial intelligence might surpass human intelligence. Since then, technology has changed society so dramatically that the focus of study has shifted toward society’s ability to adapt to technological change. Technology and rapid communications weaken the capacity of society to integrate into the broader social structure those people who have had little or no access to education. (Most of the recent use of communications by the excluded has been disruptive, not integrative.) Interweaving of socioeconomic activity and large-scale systems had a dehumanizing effect on people excluded from social participation by these trends. Jobs vanish at an accelerating rate. Marketing creates demand for goods which stress the global environment, even while the global environment no longer yields readily accessible resources. Mining and petroleum firms push into ever more challenging environments (e.g., deep mines and seabed mining) to meet resource demands. These activities are expensive, and resource prices rise rapidly, further excluding groups that cannot pay for these resources. The impact of large-scale systems on society leads to mass idleness, with the accompanying threat of violent reaction as unemployed masses seek to blame both people in power as well as the broader social structure for their plight. Perhaps, the impact of large-scale systems on society has already eroded essential qualities of humanness. Humans, when they feel “socially useless,” are dehumanized. (At the same time, machines (at any scale) seem incapable of emotion or empathy.) Has the cost of technological progress been too high to pay? These issues are addressed in this paper.

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