Artificial intelligence

The radical anti-humanism of Artificial Intelligence

Not a day goes by without mentioning Artificial Intelligence, the great evil or the great good of the century. Threat to humanity, consubstantial engine of economic growth, liberticidal monster, exterminator of humanity or omnipotent benefactor, designed to help us, to increase us but also to monitor us in order to perhaps subdue us or make us disappear. Object of all fantasies, condensed in an acronym that encloses the whole universe of hypermodernity, AI deserves a pause, a reflection, a critical look. This is what the philosopher Eric Sadin has just done in his latest work, an uncompromising but singularly clear-sighted critique of the AI phenomenon.
Ahrough his books, Eric Sadin has become the undisputed digital thinker. He has shown its emergence, its power and its risks. But now, digital has changed in scale and nature. It is no longer simply a matter of allowing the storage, indexing and easy manipulation of corpuses of numbers, texts, sounds and images. It has become a power acetalic. A body dedicated to exposing thealèthéiathe truthIn the sense of Greek philosophy: that of the unveiling, of the manifestation of the reality of phenomena beyond their appearances.
From the very first pages of his book, Eric Sadin sets the tone. The digital " stands as a body empowered to appraise reality more reliably than ourselves ». What is called "Artificial Intelligence" takes the form of an entity endowed with the power to say, ever more precisely and without delay, the supposedly exact state of things. An entity that is resolutely anthropomorphic, seeking to attribute human qualities to electronic processors, and more specifically those of evaluating situations and drawing conclusions.
Sadin reminds us that no artefact, throughout history, has resulted from a desire to reproduce our abilities identically, but rather to compensate for our bodily limitations. None was the result of an absolutely mimetic decal, but rather of a prosthetic dimension, to make up for our physical inadequacies. All the machines in history were born this way. Today, however, the architectures that shape computational machines are modelled on the human brain. The very vocabulary of AI shamelessly borrows its lexicon from the lexicon of brain sciences, our own. Synaptic chips, neural networks, neural processors... if only by vocabulary we enter the anthropomorphic age of technology.


But, as the author points out, this anthropomorphism does not seek strict and conformal copying. It contains its own logic and is articulated in three dimensions. It is an anthropomorphism increasedThis is an extreme or radical approach, which certainly seeks to be modelled on our cognitive capacities, but by taking them as levers to build mechanisms that draw on our brain mechanisms to go further, be faster, more efficient, more reliable, while tending to be unalterable.
It's also an anthropomorphism parcel which has no vocation to embrace or reproduce our entire cognitive faculties. It does not seek to reproduce our mind tormented by a thousand questions often unanswered. It is only intended, for the moment, to ensure, better than we do, specific tasks.
It's finally an anthropomorphism undertakingThis is seen as a power capable of taking action in an automated way on the basis of agreed conclusions.
AI is not an innovation like any other. For Eric Sadin, it represents " a universal technical principle This is a "systematic" approach: analysis of various situations in real time, most often with a view to taking appropriate action, possibly on an autonomous basis. This logic is applied in all aspects of our personal or social life: in the context of our body, our relationship with others, our housing, the organisation of our city, our transport, our profession, our health, our banking activities, but also in the worlds of finance, justice, the military and even the functioning of our modern mobility vehicles. Sadin insists that we must understand that this is the emergence of a "Integral technology ".
Eric Sadin
As a result, due to their increasing sophistication, these devices acetalics are called " to impose their law, directing human affairs from the top of their authority... ». They do so to varying degrees, ranging from inducement to coercion to prescription. For Sadin, " mankind is taking great strides to equip itself with an organ of self-determination... ». He goes on to say " An unprecedented anthropological and ontological status is taking shape that sees the human figure submit to the equations of its own artefacts. ». One only has to look at China and the huge algorithmic surveillance of citizens that is being put in place to be convinced that Eric Sadin is not in a paranoid delirium.

READ UP : China is becoming the world's first digital dictatorship

The challenge of the century

Sadin's book is part of a filiation assumed with that of Jacques Ellul. The technique or issue of the century (1954). However, the current period is fundamentally different from that of Ellul. Technique is no longer a mere external force exerted on certain sequences of daily life. It has crossed three thresholds. First, digital technologies have a "totalizing" reach; they are destined to interfere in all areas of life. Second, they have the power to "change" behaviour, to guide human action. Finally, technology is no longer an autonomous field; the technosciences are subordinate to the economic authorities who dictate the paths to be adopted.  
As much as Ellul, in the midst of Thirty Glorious Thirties, was swimming against the current when he denounced with Marxist accents the sacralization of technique, Sadin finds himself in a very different context. He is not the only one, in this tormented century, to worry about the alliance between the technosciences and the omnipotent utilitarian economy. But, according to him, some of the rhetoric is a sham. One must be wary of the sensationalist remarks of Elon Musk, who fears that AI could destroy humanity, or those of the GAFA engineers who call for ethics and the enslavement of the machine to man in order to clear his conscience. According to him, technoeconomics has only one ambition: to increase systems expertise so that AI can become "... the only way to make it possible to improve the quality of life of the human race". the automated invisible hand "from the markets, until" organize the end of the policy ".
In his indictment, Eric Sadin is not short of arguments, even if these criticisms of techno-liberalism sometimes come close to caricature. The fact remains, however, that he raises questions of a civilizational nature to which we must, without delay, strive to find answers.
Eric Sadin, Artificial Intelligence or the challenge of the centuryL'Échappée, 298 p., 18 euros.

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