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The Political Philosophy of AI


In his recent book on what artificial intelligence could mean for a culture permeated with the spirit of self-improvement (an $11 billion industry in the U.S. alone), Mark Coeckelbergh points to a sort of ghostly double that accompanies each of us now: the quantified self, an invisible and constantly growing digital duplicate, made up of all the traces left whenever we read, write, view or purchase anything online, or carry around a device, such as a phone, that can be tracked.

These are “our” data. Then again, they aren’t: we don’t own or control them, and we have scarcely any say in where they go. Companies buy and sell them and mine them to determine patterns in our choices, and between our data and other people’s. Algorithms target us with recommendations; whether or not we click through, or watch video clips they’ve predicted will draw our attention, feedback is generated, sharpening the cumulative quantitative profile.

The potential to market self-improvement products calibrated to your specific insecurities is obvious. (Just think how much home fitness equipment now gathering dust was once sold using the blunt instrument of the infomercial.) Coeckelbergh, a professor of philosophy of media and technology at the University of […]

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