The premise of this talk is that we need to think about artificial intelligence as a complex ecosystem. Doing so requires navigating thorny disputes in the theoretical humanities and social sciences concerning the autonomy and environmental dependency of machine learning algorithms. Further, the talk contends that steering this course requires entering into a series of debates concerning AI and its metaphysical, political, and ecological existence, and underway in fields strongly influenced by the history of critical theory and continental philosophy, and also operating under the umbrella of posthumanism and speculative and materialist philosophy.
Their proposal for an ecologically complex view of machine learning takes shape against the backdrop of various tensions and dead ends that arise in two competing theoretical discourses: the first, stresses the autonomy of computational rationality; and the second, emphasizes the dependency and impact these algorithmic systems have on planetary systems. Along the way, they trace the ways in which these different conceptual projects also become legible through divergent but equal investments in Karl Marx’s work on automation. But ultimately, some intractable issues regarding machine learning and its relation to the interiority and exteriority of algorithmic systems will give us permission to search for a revised conception of ecological complexity in the work of Conrad Hal Waddington, Lynn Margulis, and Alfred North Whitehead. Such a reframing will also seed new potential for political critique and reaffirm the central importance of the theoretical humanities for engaging AI futures.
Adam Nocek is an Associate Professor of Philosophy of Technology and Science and Technology Studies at the School of Arts, Media + Engineering, Arizona State University. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Philosophical Technologies (CPT) and Editor of Techniques Journal. He is the author of Molecular Capture: The Animation of Biology (2021) and is working on his next monograph, Governmental Design: On Algorithmic Autonomy. Website: adamnocek.com
Join us on the 8th of March 2023, between 16.00 – 19.00 at the Humanities Labs (Bushuis), F0.01, Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam!