#11 – (Artificial) Intelligence: a short stupid story

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Tech, pop-culture, and politics for a sexy media literacy.

(Artificial) Intelligence: a short stupid story – Part I

by Alessandro Cozzutto 
Digital Specialist @ Slash_Prod
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes + videos
Does artificial intelligence exist?

Luc Julia, VP of innovation at Samsung, says well, it depends.

September 2019, Lille.
During just another crowded tech-event, he points out how, for instance, AI – in the form of completely autonomous self-driving cars (level 5) – cannot entirely cope 

with all the sophisticated forms of human intelligence in a traffic jam.

And with its even more sophisticated forms of stupidity, either.

Does intelligence exist?

And is intelligence or rather stupidity what really drives the development of technology?

WAR OF LOGICS (1600-1950)
The roots of the digital revolution are to be found in Modern Age, in philosophy, more precisely when Leibniz starts wondering: can calculation solve a dispute? (1)

Logic evolves via binary code, tubes, paradoxes: brilliant minds turn abstract thinking into computers: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt,” Bertrand Russell says.

And what’s more stupid than making war?

World War II sees the rise of encryption and decryption technologies and launches the race to more sophisticated ICT.
Alain Turing, the logician who had cracked Nazi’s code, makes a test for computers.

Question: “Are you intelligent?”

The first AI test ever inspires “Blade runner” but does not spare Turing’s life, in spite of his contribution to the end of the war.
Because he is intelligent, but also homosexual. And stupid people tend to dislike both.

Even the stupid knows that intelligence is powerful, though, and the dream of an artificial one sounds very promising.
The Imitation Game – Can Machines Think?
A film about Alain Turing’s genius
MONEY-CODING (1950-1975)

After the war, the free world opts for peace and eternal growth.

PR specialist Edward Bernays says that people are not like Trotszki, they do not want permanent revolution, they want to buy stuff, which they do not need, in particular if they cannot afford it.

He knows for sure, Sigmund Freud is his uncle.

The communication warfare, i.e. the arts formerly known as “propaganda”, recruits new soldiers, the Mad Men, who master the secret of advertising: “happiness.”

This new era of consumerism, which a BBC documentary calls “The century of the Self,” comes in the form of an algorithm with a contradiction. 

Computers follows a mathematical logic: only numbers accepted.

Consumerism follows the logic of profit, which is based on emotions: for dreams only.

How to combine numbers and dreams, how to combine intelligence and stupidity? 

“The Century of the Self”
In his 1976 “Open letter to hobbyists,” Bill Gates, not yet a billionaire nor a philanthropist, accuses early IT developers, geeks, and freaks, who dislike passwords, to ”steal” and to “prevent good software from being written”. (2)

Free or proprietary software, the IT community splits in two.

On one side, the Free Software movement, a libertarian community of developers, inspired by Richard Stallman, opposes the logic of profit and paves the way to Linux:computers for the people.

On the other side, the commercial exploitation of Windows takes computers to the masses.

At that time, Artificial Intelligence is more popular in the cyber-punk literature than in the business community, which is not that interested in beating humans at chess.

In the background, though, numbers and dreams keep competing, this time to exploit the technologies of a post-war military network of communications (ARPANET). 

The Cold War and the commercial exploitation creates the mass market for further research and exploitation.

Ronald Reagan, new US president and former actor in Hollywood, accelerate economic deregulation and dematerialisation, and consequently the rise of personal computers and finance.

When the Cold War comes to an end, the contradiction between numbers and dreams seems to melt down: we can all be free and rich at the same time.

The dot-com bubble in the late 1990s says it was wishful thinking.

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