Skip to content

Kate Crawford and Azeem Azhar on AI’s societal impact: positioning technology as servant

Azeem Azhar: In your [Kate Crawford’s] book, you paint a picture of how AI creates a sense of “enchanted determinism” – it seems quite magical but also mechanistic. One of the consequences is that our future becomes painted either as magically utopian by AI’s proponents, or it’s mechanistically dystopian by its detractors. We started this conversation critiquing the Cartesian dualistic view of intelligence. What’s the problem with this dystopian / utopian framing for the future of AI?

Kate Crawford: I think the problem is that in each one of these visions – the utopian and the dystopian – technology is at the centre. It’s either technology that’s going to make everything better, or it’s technology that’s going to make everything worse. And you can see this particularly in the singularity vision – that we’ll have artificial intelligence systems rising up and overthrowing humanity – yet again, it’s technology that’s the central actor.

So I think one of the things we have to do is start de-centering technology as always being this prime mover of how we make decisions and make change. In some ways I think about this almost as the core problem of technological inevitability, that if something can be built, it must be and it should be deployed. What that … means is that the best that we can do is to carve out small protections, [like] slightly improved privacy laws… I think we have to reverse that arrow and rather than saying “How does technology drive society?” we have to say “What sort of world do we want to live in, and how does technology serve that vision rather than drive it?”

Azeem Azhar and Kate Crawford – Exponential View S5 Ep.25

Thought provoking throughout.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...