I have revisited Douglas Engelbart’s 1962 paper Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework (link). I did so after Mark Upton shared links with me to Dan McQuillan’s Towards an anti-fascist AI (link) and Joi Ito’s (2018) Resisting Reduction manifesto (link).
Joi’s manifesto includes reference to Norbert Wiener’s 1950 The Human Use of Human Beings (link). (By coincidence, I have been researching Norbert’s work in cybernetics for a paper I have been writing about computer science in sport developments in Russia.)
Another nudge in this direction came from an alert to Ben Shneiderman’s (2019) Encounters with HCI Pioneers (link). It is Ben’s personal history of the intellectual arguments and people he encountered.
The final impetus for this post came from a Stephen Downes post today (link) that concludes “We can discuss ethics, we can refer to them – but you can’t make people ethical – at least, not in the sense that everybody is ethical in exactly the same way everyone else is ethical. And if you depend on this in order to succeed, you won’t succeed.” (Original emphasis)
I see all of these links as important prompts to explore our taken-for-grantedness views of the world. Joi points out “the paradigms that set our goals and drive the evolution of society today have set us on a dangerous course”. This would include, I think, a consideration of how the discipline Douglas envisaged aimed at understanding and harnessing “neural power” might be sufficiently reflective to pose questions about it own paradigmatic certainty.
I take this to be the essence of Dan McQuillan’s argument about artificial intelligence (AI):
AI is political. Not only because of the question of what is to be done with it, but because of the political tendecies of the technology itself. The possibilities of AI arise from the resonances between its concrete operations and the surrounding political conditions. By influencing our understanding of what is both possible and desirable it acts in the space between what is and what ought to be.
Real AI matters not because it heralds machine intelligence but because it confronts us with the unresolved injustices of our current system. An antifascist AI is a project based on solidarity, mutual aid and collective care. We don’t need autonomous machines but a technics that is part of a movement for social autonomy.
These are profound issues for us. Sport has to be part of this debate about how we might all flourish in changing times. I take Stephen’s point about different ethical views of the world that inform our practices. I am hopeful that the ‘collective care’ Dan mentions can give us a shared journey embedded in the harmony discussed by Joi.