Artificial Intelligence, Society, and Control
This chapter examines the ways in which representations of AI during the twentieth century, particularly in nonandroid form (what might be termed a ‘distributed system’), dovetail with pre-existing perceptions of society operating as a ‘machine’. The chapter defines and outlines conceptions of ‘machine society’, from Thomas Carlyle’s ‘Signs of the Times’ (1829) to contemporary debates about surveillance and machine society, to contextualize the ways in which representations of AI become imbricated in broader social discourses about the loss of autonomy and individuality. Using as its primary texts four different ‘Machines’—E. M. Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’ (1909); Paul W. Fairman’s lesser-known I, The Machine (1968); Isaac Asimov’s ‘The Evitable Conflict’ (1950); and the popular recent television serial, Person of Interest (2011–2016) created by Jonathan Nolan—the chapter demonstrates the ways in which modern representations relate to debates about social organization to develop a fundamentally ‘mechanical’ vision of society.
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