Artificial Intelligence has been with us for centuries
It just had another name.
To really understand the impact AI will have on our lives, and how to deal with it, we must know where and why it was born, says a 2018 article on the Economist. That piece describes how:
- Statistics and state control have evolved hand in hand for hundreds of years
- The origins of computing have been traced to the history of public administration
- both human bureaucracy and digital computers process large quantities of information using a hierarchy of pre-set but adaptable rules
- Babbage’s first computer in the 1820s must be seen as “materialisation of state activity”.
In other words…
Since the beginning, “AI meant business”
Herbert Simon, a political scientist, started in the 1930s to develop a “scientific” account of administrative organisation and human problem solving, in terms that a computer could implement. Eventually, his research led to computer and software models considered “the first working prototype of artificial intelligence”. Those models:
- would “think” not as human beings, but “like a corporation, because they…
- would “apply scientific principles and statistics to optimise military activities, and later, for corporate uses”.
This is why Simon said that “The real inventor [of digital computer, and of what we today call Artificial Intelligence] was the economist Adam Smith.”
Since the beginning, AI was not designed to replicate humans
Indeed, many contemporary AI systems of today do not so much mimic human thinking as they do the less imaginative minds of bureaucratic institutions. AI enables large-scale automated categorisation.
This is why other researchers point out that “corporations are another form of artificial thinking-machine in that they are designed to be capable of taking decisions for themselves”, and that we as a society never learned how to really control them.
My two cents on all this
The points from the Economist article summarized above give historical basis to something I have been saying for a while.
To begin with, robots as such do not deserve to be a separate category. Robots are just “artificial intelligence” driving something that happens to have the same general shape of a biologic organism, or some part of it.
This said, if artificial intelligence is like corporations, and was born to optimize them, the reverse is also true: corporations are like artificial intelligence.
Both corporations and artificial intelligence, that is, are something that should have way, way more limits than human beings, and much less rights.
In other words, neither corporations nor artificial intelligence, in or outside “robots”, deserve anything like “personhood”.
Images source: “AI Has Already Taken Over. It’s Called the Corporation”