Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Vassilis Galanos | University of Edinburgh | United Kingdom 


September 15th 2022 | 10.00 – 11.30
Panel #1 | “Techno/Digital Dystopias: debates and models
Room G.127 | Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Milan, Largo Gemelli 1

Monstrous AI as an Existential Threat: How Dystopian Thinking in the Press Triggered Utopian Thinking in Policy 

This presentation threads lines of three separate pieces of published independent and doctoral research on multiple sociotechnical facets of artificial intelligence (AI) in light of recent developments in the field of AI public and policy perceptions. In the paper Singularitarianism and Schizophrenia (AI & Society, 2017) I suggested that the age-old polarity between utopian and dystopian narratives in AI leads to a collectively schizophrenic attitude towards AI with moments of hype/optimism and hysteria/pessimism. This amounts to a social interpretation of Gregory Bateson’s double bind theory, aligned with Deleuze and Guattari’s use of the term in their investigations of Capitalism and Schizophrenia. In the paper Exploring Expanding Experts: Artificial Intelligence as an Existential threat and the Role of Prestigious Commentators, 2014–2018 (Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 2019), I observed the impact of commentaries by non-AI experts such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk in the shaping of an AI regulation regime based on the dystopic potential of AI. Revisiting this article three years later, the contemporary landscape of operationalised ethics, as in cases of ‘ethical AI’ or ‘AI for social good’ initiatives offers distorting images of what is to be regulated and governance approaches, without taking into account challenges often flagged by practitioners. In the chapter Teratological Aspects in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics: From Monstrous Threats to Rorschach Opportunities (in volume Monsters, Monstrosities, and the Monstrous in Culture and Society, 2020), I attempted a deeper phenomenological/psychoanalytical explication of elements of the ‘monstrous’ in AI and suggested pathways of escape to overcome the psycho-social lock-in in the human-machine interface. These works are revisited based on recent AI policy regimes, such as the EU AI Act and historical analysis of AI’s conceptualisation, offering ground for dialogue and debate in the context of AI’s current rebranding.

Vassilis Galanos is Teaching Fellow and Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Science, Technology and Innovation Studies department, and co-founder of the AI Ethics and Society research group. Teaches several postgraduate and undergraduate STS courses relating to interplays between technology, society, gender, and environment. Current research includes the combination of digital and place-based ethnographic methods in urban regeneration (with the Data Civics project), and AI artworks evaluation (The New Real/Experiential AI project). Works have been published with Technology Analysis and Strategic Management (Exploring Expanding Expertise), AI & Society (Singularitarianism and Schizophrenia), and within edited volumes, proceedings, and other journals.