AI and Curiosity

Two crows talking about AI

Right out of the gate, I want to be clear: I’ve nothing important to say about AI.

It’s fascinating to read all of the judgements/prognostications on AI. The claims are for the most part claims to “know what AI really is” & then to pass judgment.

I feel that these are, like most similar claims, charming in their simplistic essentialism, tedious in their monotonous repetitions, worrisome in their reactionary will to engage in blanket denunciations, & perplexing in their lack of curiosity or insight.

One of the problems is that AI, like “technology” is not one thing. AI is a complex set of diverse practices that are irreducible to neat singular judgements.

It is arguably more useful to trace out the multiplicity of divergent trajectories & practices that are part of the developing diversity that goes under the banner “AI.” What is actually happening? What new forms of agency, subjectivity, & practice are emerging? (This is explored in Ruthanna Emrys “A Half-Built Garden”)

Another ubiquitous approach that is not so important is the focus on identity interpretation (the attempt to ascertain once & for all “what it is”). Many of these act as if what it “is” or how it “operates” is some occult singular essence that can be absolutely determined in advance. As many argue (from James to Wittgenstein to Deleuze to Barad), what things “are” is what they do – which is open, inherently relational, dynamic, non-linear & emergent.

Exploration/Experimentation in regards to what it does & can do (never fixed or singular) is important – & answering these questions requires an experimental & relational approach (E.g. “Data Feminism”).

Such an approach is not inherently naive – of course we should be cautious. As Foucault put it “My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads… to hyper - & pessimistic - activism.” This activism, pessimistic or not, is an engaged pragmatic experimental activism. Here activism means literally to be active & experimentally engaged (even critically exaptive): what is it doing? What else can it do? How can it go in other directions? (Adrian Tchaikovsky in “Children of Memory” does this with Covids).

Good & bad can easily become the “judgements of god” – they can act as final & universal declarations: good = do this, bad = don’t do that. These would be wonderful if we lived in a linear causal universe, given that we do not – they are at best quaint, charming & ignorable distractions…

Here are some links you may find interesting:

[1] From the experimental poet Kenneth Goldsmith who a few years back wrote a wonderful op-ed (& subsequently a book): “Wasting time on the internet” to challenge some reationary positions. It is worth a read – as is his poetry.

[2] Data Feminism

[3] Ruthanna Emrys “A Half-Built Garden

[4] Adrian Tchaikovsky in “Children of Memory

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