I don’t have a problem with artefacts and tools that we create in our world for useful purposes. It is when you personify and anthropomorphise artefacts that you can end up dehumanising people as a result. The story of AI begins in slavery. When you look at slavery, elites, who were usually white men, considered people of a different class or race, or women and children, as property and not as humans. A slave is a kind of animate tool. Then there came this fantasy of getting rid of the slave and just having the tool, the animate all by itself. A robot. It was based on the idea that humans are just tools you use to get what you want, and when you have what you want you can get rid of them.
When I was growing up in the 70s and I imagined the future, it was a wonderful existence, because we would have this technology, we could live on the moon, but we would also have each other. What has been proposed instead is a future without humans, a future of isolation. Now, it is not just that technology gadgets give you an experience, but they are supposed to become your experience.
“The story of AI begins in slavery.… A slave is a kind of animate tool. Then there came this fantasy of getting rid of the slave and just having the tool: a robot.”
In the past, people had religion, which was a prison for some, but it helped others make sense of their experiences and gave them meaning. Then we had communism, socialism, and nationalism. All these different ways of taking control of our lives, but they didn’t work out. American corporate capitalism is all we have left.
It is a kind of hierarchical elitism: some people are privileged, and their power is seen as natural. They understand themselves by the property that they own, but underneath those billionaires there is still a human being, who wants to be loved and feels emotions such as jealousy. You don’t get to be an enlightened human being by having a lot of resources. What makes us enlightened human beings is our commitment to other human beings. This is something most people do spontaneously. What people most want is better relationships with other people, but that just seems so difficult.