Published in  
April 7, 2023

Can AI have wisdom?

Is there an anthropocentricity at work in the emphatic attribution of artificiality to new AI phenomena?

I find what follows from the presupposition that "artificial intelligences" are 'artificial' - namely, the idea that humans have "natural intelligence" - to be more consequential, more interesting, than forecasts about an impending AI totalitarian takeover.

There's a subtle ontological move crystallized in the attribution of 'artificiality': a subtlety that works as an apartheid system, which is now playing out in anxious efforts to reassert our dominance and exclusivity. "Well, AI can mimic us, but it can't really do poetry." "ChatGPT can do essays, but it isn't wise." "Oh no, the livelihoods of artists and animators are threatened by the emergence of AI."

At some level, the panic is justified: deepfakes, quasi-sentient bots, and artistic algorithms effectively trouble 'our' vaunted place in the scheme of things. It's difficult to know what to do here, to know what to do with artificiality.  Perhaps one thing to do is to trouble the assumption of distance between the artificial and the natural.

Maybe nature is unnatural. Maybe nature is artificial. Maybe artifice has a hidden life, the kind that the legendary animators of the Toy Story series transcribed to our delight...the kind theologians of panentheistic persuasions wax poetic about. Maybe this is an instance of excess, where something decidedly modern spills beyond it, becomes fugitive, and calls into question the corporeal forms we've adopted.

Maybe we are all AI. And maybe we are not, all at once...and AI and us are all part of the frothing foliage of emergence that does not allocate intelligence in a fixed manner.

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