Brian Cantwell Smith

Brian Cantwell Smith is Reid Hoffman Professor of Artificial Intelligence and the Human at the University of Toronto, where he is also Professor of Information, Philosophy, Cognitive Science, and the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. He is the author of On the Origin of Objects (MIT Press).

  • The Promise of Artificial Intelligence

    The Promise of Artificial Intelligence

    Reckoning and Judgment

    Brian Cantwell Smith

    An argument that—despite dramatic advances in the field—artificial intelligence is nowhere near developing systems that are genuinely intelligent.

    In this provocative book, Brian Cantwell Smith argues that artificial intelligence is nowhere near developing systems that are genuinely intelligent. Second wave AI, machine learning, even visions of third-wave AI: none will lead to human-level intelligence and judgment, which have been honed over millennia. Recent advances in AI may be of epochal significance, but human intelligence is of a different order than even the most powerful calculative ability enabled by new computational capacities. Smith calls this AI ability “reckoning,” and argues that it does not lead to full human judgment—dispassionate, deliberative thought grounded in ethical commitment and responsible action. Taking judgment as the ultimate goal of intelligence, Smith examines the history of AI from its first-wave origins (“good old-fashioned AI,” or GOFAI) to such celebrated second-wave approaches as machine learning, paying particular attention to recent advances that have led to excitement, anxiety, and debate. He considers each AI technology's underlying assumptions, the conceptions of intelligence targeted at each stage, and the successes achieved so far. Smith unpacks the notion of intelligence itself—what sort humans have, and what sort AI aims at.

    Smith worries that, impressed by AI's reckoning prowess, we will shift our expectations of human intelligence. What we should do, he argues, is learn to use AI for the reckoning tasks at which it excels while we strengthen our commitment to judgment, ethics, and the world.

    • Hardcover $24.95 £20.00
  • On the Origin of Objects

    On the Origin of Objects

    Brian Cantwell Smith

    On the Origin of Objects is the culmination of Brian Cantwell Smith's decade-long investigation into the philosophical and metaphysical foundations of computation, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. Based on a sustained critique of the formal tradition that underlies the reigning views, he presents an argument for an embedded, participatory, "irreductionist," metaphysical alternative. Smith seeks nothing less than to revise our understanding not only of the machines we build but also of the world with which they interact.

    On the Origin of Objects is the culmination of Brian Cantwell Smith's decade-long investigation into the philosophical and metaphysical foundations of computation, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. Based on a sustained critique of the formal tradition that underlies the reigning views, he presents an argument for an embedded, participatory, "irreductionist," metaphysical alternative. Smith seeks nothing less than to revise our understanding not only of the machines we build but also of the world with which they interact.

    Smith's ambitious project begins as a search for a comprehensive theory of computation, able to do empirical justice to practice and conceptual justice to the computational theory of mind. A rigorous commitment to these two criteria ultimately leads him to recommend a radical overhaul of our traditional conception of metaphysics.

    Everything that exists—objects, properties, life, practice—lies Smith claims in the "middle distance," an intermediate realm of partial engagement with and partial separation from, the enveloping world. Patterns of separation and engagement are taken to underlie a single notion unifying representation and ontology: that of subjects' "registration" of the world around them.

    Along the way, Smith offers many fascinating ideas: the distinction between particularity and individuality, the methodological notion of an "inscription error," an argument that there are no individuals within physics, various deconstructions of the type-instance distinction, an analysis of formality as overly disconnected ("discreteness run amok"), a conception of the boundaries of objects as properties of unruly interactions between objects and subjects, an argument for the theoretical centrality of reference preservation, and a theatrical, acrobatic metaphor for the contortions involved in the preservation of reference and resultant stabilization of objects. Sidebars and diagrams throughout the book help clarify and guide Smith's highly original and compelling argument.

    A Bradford Book

    • Hardcover $80.00 £55.95
    • Paperback $44.00 £34.00

Contributor

  • Boundary Objects and Beyond

    Boundary Objects and Beyond

    Working with Leigh Star

    Geoffrey C. Bowker, Stefan Timmermans, Adele E. Clarke, and Ellen Balka

    The multifaceted work of the late Susan Leigh Star is explored through a selection of her writings and essays by friends and colleagues.

    Susan Leigh Star (1954–2010) was one of the most influential science studies scholars of the last several decades. In her work, Star highlighted the messy practices of discovering science, asking hard questions about the marginalizing as well as the liberating powers of science and technology. In the landmark work Sorting Things Out, Star and Geoffrey Bowker revealed the social and ethical histories that are deeply embedded in classification systems. Star's most celebrated concept was the notion of boundary objects: representational forms—things or theories—that can be shared between different communities, with each holding its own understanding of the representation.

    Unfortunately, Leigh was unable to complete a work on the poetics of infrastructure that further developed the full range of her work. This volume collects articles by Star that set out some of her thinking on boundary objects, marginality, and infrastructure, together with essays by friends and colleagues from a range of disciplines—from philosophy of science to organization science—that testify to the wide-ranging influence of Star's work.

    Contributors Ellen Balka, Eevi E. Beck, Dick Boland, Geoffrey C. Bowker, Janet Ceja Alcalá, Adele E. Clarke, Les Gasser, James R. Griesemer, Gail Hornstein, John Leslie King, Cheris Kramarae, Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, Karen Ruhleder, Kjeld Schmidt, Brian Cantwell Smith, Susan Leigh Star, Anselm L. Strauss, Jane Summerton, Stefan Timmermans, Helen Verran, Nina Wakeford, Jutta Weber

    • Hardcover $85.00 £66.00
    • Paperback $40.00 £30.00