Episode 127: Leaving the Mechanical Dollhouse: On Abeba Birhane's "The Impossibility of Automating Ambiguity"
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Like Caligula declaring war on Neptune and ordering his troops to charge into the Mediterranean Sea, our technological masters are designing neural networks meant to capture the human soul in all its oceanic complexity. According to the cognitive scientist Abeba Birhane, this is a fool's errand that we undertake at our peril. In her paper "The Impossibility of Automating Ambiguity," she makes the case for the irremediable fluidity, spontaneity, and relationality of people and societies. She argues that ongoing efforts to subsume the human (and the rest of reality) in predictive algorithms is actually narrowing the human experience, as so many of us are excluded from the system while others are compelled to artificially conform to its idea of the human. Far from paving the way to a better world, the tyranny of automation threatens to cut us off from the Real, ensuring an endless perpetuation of the past with all its errors and injustices. Phil and JF discuss Birhane's essay in this episode.
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