AI Policy Futures is a research effort to explore the relationship between science fiction around AI and the social imaginaries of AI. What those social measures can teach us about real technology policy today. We seem to tell the same few stories about AI, and they’re not very helpful.
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This is going to be a conversation about science fiction not just as a cultural phenomenon, or a body of work of different kinds, but also as a kind of method or a tool.
How people think about AI depends largely on how they know AI. And to the point, how the most people know AI is through science fiction, which sort of raises the question, yeah? What stories are we telling ourselves about AI in science fiction?
When data scientists talk about bias, we talk about quantifiable bias that is a result of let’s say incomplete or incorrect data. And data scientists love living in that world—it’s very comfortable. Why? Because once it’s quantified if you can point out the error you just fix the error. What this does not ask is should you have built the facial recognition technology in the first place?
What I hope we can do in this panel is have a slightly more literary discussion to try to answer well why were those the stories that we were telling and what has been the point of telling those stories even though they don’t now necessarily always align with the policy problems that we’re having.
We’re here because the imaginary futures of science fiction impact our real future much more than we probably realize. There is a powerful feedback loop between sci‐fi and real‐world technical and tech policy innovation and if we don’t stop and pay attention to it, we can’t harness it to help create better features including better and more inclusive futures around AI.
I’ve been trying to get as many weird futures on the table as possible because the truth is there are these sort of ubiquitous futures, right. Ideas about how the world should or will be that have become this sort of mainstream, dominating vernacular that’s primarily kind of about a very white Western masculine vision of the future, and it kind of colonized the ability to think about and imagine technology in the future.
Victor’s sin wasn’t in being too ambitious, not necessarily in playing God. It was in failing to care for the being he created, failing to take responsibility and to provide the creature what it needed to thrive, to reach its potential, to be a positive development for society instead of a disaster.