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AI NarrativesA History of Imaginative Thinking about Intelligent Machines$
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Stephen Cave, Kanta Dihal, and Sarah Dillon

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198846666

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198846666.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 31 July 2021

Machine Visions

Machine Visions

Artificial Intelligence, Society, and Control

(p.213) 9 Machine Visions
AI Narratives

Will Slocombe

Oxford University Press

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.

Keywords:   Machine, machine society, mechanization, codification, automation, Isaac Asimov, Thomas Carlyle, Paul Fairman, E. M. Forster, Jonathan Nolan

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