Are we humans or? Reflections on the limits between man and machine in an age of artificial intelligence and data-essentialism

Jakob Svensson håller sin installationsföreläsning som professor i Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap. 


Now that more and more people seem to be propagating to jump on the Artifical Intelligence (AI) train before it is too late, it is important to critically reflect upon the algorithmically processed data flows that AI is based upon. Today, there seems to be a belief in objective quantification and tracking of all types of human behavior and social interaction through digital technology.

We are on the brink of entering into the dataverse as data is becoming the building blocks of our world. In this context, I have observed the rise of a new data orthodoxy that I suggest to label ‘data-essentialism’. Data-essentialism assumes that data is the essence of everything and thus provides the ideological underpinnings for the belief of a possibility of creating AI that would make humans obsolete. The difference between man and machine is believed to collapse as we have access to enough data and enough data power to upgrade our old algorithmic processor, the body. Homo Sapiens switches to Homo Deus (as Harari famously argues in the book with same name), or should we rather say Homo Datus? In this lecture I will critically discuss such standpoints, critique the understanding of intelligence in AI and link data-essentialism to positivism and show its roots in modernity.


Johan Farkas (doktorand på K3)