Artificial Stupidity

07/02/2020 ∙ by Michael Falk, et al. ∙ 0

Public debate about AI is dominated by Frankenstein Syndrome, the fear that AI will become superhuman and escape human control. Although superintelligence is certainly a possibility, the interest it excites can distract the public from a more imminent concern: the rise of Artificial Stupidity (AS). This article discusses the roots of Frankenstein Syndrome in Mary Shelley's famous novel of 1818. It then provides a philosophical framework for analysing the stupidity of artificial agents, demonstrating that modern intelligent systems can be seen to suffer from 'stupidity of judgement'. Finally it identifies an alternative literary tradition that exposes the perils and benefits of AS. In the writings of Edmund Spenser, Jonathan Swift and E.T.A. Hoffmann, ASs replace, oppress or seduce their human users. More optimistically, Joseph Furphy and Laurence Sterne imagine ASs that can serve human intellect as maps or as pipes. These writers provide a strong counternarrative to the myths that currently drive the AI debate. They identify ways in which even stupid artificial agents can evade human control, for instance by appealing to stereotypes or distancing us from reality. And they underscore the continuing importance of the literary imagination in an increasingly automated society.

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