How Algorithms Produce Social Intelligence
A proposal that we think about digital technologies such as machine learning not in terms of artificial intelligence but as artificial communication.
Algorithms that work with deep learning and big data are getting so much better at doing so many things that it makes us uncomfortable. How can a device know what our favorite songs are, or what we should write in an email? Have machines become too smart? In Artificial Communication, Elena Esposito argues that drawing this sort of analogy between algorithms and human intelligence is misleading. If machines contribute to social intelligence, it will not be because they have learned how to think like us but because we have learned how to communicate with them. Esposito proposes that we think of “smart” machines not in terms of artificial intelligence but in terms of artificial communication.
To do this, we need a concept of communication that can take into account the possibility that a communication partner may be not a human being but an algorithm—which is not random and is completely controlled, although not by the processes of the human mind. Esposito investigates this by examining the use of algorithms in different areas of social life. She explores the proliferation of lists (and lists of lists) online, explaining that the web works on the basis of lists to produce further lists; the use of visualization; digital profiling and algorithmic individualization, which personalize a mass medium with playlists and recommendations; and the implications of the “right to be forgotten.” Finally, she considers how photographs today seem to be used to escape the present rather than to preserve a memory.
“An innovative look at artificial intelligence that does not seek to oppose the intelligence of humans against that of machines, but rather explores the variety of communications between our societies and artifacts that do not reason like us but have learned to know us.”
Dominique Cardon, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Médialab at Sciences Po Paris
“Building on her pivotal understanding of Luhmann's concept of communication, Esposito highlights the crucial role of communication with AI systems. She does so in a wholly new way, thus challenging conventional wisdom in AI and AI ethics.”
Mireille Hildebrandt, Professor of Law, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Radboud University; author of Smart Environments and the End(s) of Law
"Thought-provoking and profoundly relevant."
E & T: ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY MAGAZINE
The open access edition of this book was made possible by generous funding and support from the MIT Libraries.