ksynwa
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There’s also this presupposition that if a general AI gains sentience it will try and take over the world which I’m not sure where it comes from. Also the youtuber Shaun did a very good video on Ex Machina recently.

@carpe_modo
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It’s capitalist realism, but specifically for imperialism. If someone or something had the power to take over the world, it must because that’s how things work. They can’t imagine a world in which there aren’t powers that aren’t actively dominating everything in the immediate vicinity.

SpaceCowboy
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Roderic Day mentioned that exact video in his exchange with Nia this morning. Now you do as well. Okay gonna watch that while I have dinner this evening!

Just watched it : great video. Best line of the video : “ultimately, neither Nathan nor Caleb see Kyoko and Ava as people—they see them as women”

@xxcvzvcxx
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Eh most sci-fi media I read/watched/played had AI either as male or just ungendered machines. Not sure where this “AI are almost exclusively gendered female” thing is coming from.

So for instance, do you considere Glados female? It has a female voice but it very clearly a completely non-human machine. The original “AI that tries to kill you” was also HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey which was also clearly a machine but had a male voice. The AIs in stories from Sci-Fi heavy weight Issac Asimov are mostly mechanical beings with no gender.

Topics explored in AI fiction are mostly morality and consciousness. “How do robot’s understanding of morality differ from a human’s, if they have such a concept at all?” and “Does the machine have a soul and feelings?” kind of thing.

And this is fiction in which a writer can usually use gender as a shorthand for something. The author is claiming that even in real life “AI are almost exclusively gendered female”. This sounds like a joke. You have an AI in you email detecting spams, is it gendered as female? Amazon has an AI that suggests new products for you to buy, is that gendered at all? How about upscaling AIs? The picture generating AIs? Transcribing AIs? Denoising AIs and on and on. Almost all IRL AIs are just machines cause giving them a gender is just pointless. Even humanoid AI are ungendered. Frankly, I think the author is completely out of their depth on this topic.

EDIT: AI safety is a serious topic and is not because “white men are scared of women”. Firstly I studied AI in university and most students were Chinese and Indian, not white. Secondly AI are machines, and just like any machine they can be dangerous and require safety mechanisms. Just as your CPU can overheat and catch on fire so it has a safety mechanism built in that it measures its own temperature and if it goes above a threshold it shuts down. Or the airbags in your car. etc. The problems in AI can be either due to simply bugs in the software, bias in the data set used to train the AI, or problems that AI writers did not consider. Read about “paperclip maximizer” if you want to know a thought experiment about this.

I think not only is the author out of their depth, what they are suggesting is outright dangerous. It’s like telling someone that your seatbelts are just there because men want to control you. AI safety and security are no joke.

SpaceCowboy
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She’s not talking about the threat ai poses and whether or not it’s serious, she’s saying the people who are most alarmist about it are alarmist because they misattribute the anxiety posed by other threats (class consciousness) to “ai”. Maybe it would be more palatable to you if she were to write about the capitalists misattributing their anxiety about “their tools” (untermensch) rising up against them.

“I don’t think the anxiety about AI is really about AI at all…I am not worried about how we’re going to treat AI in some distant day…” She’s not saying ai gaining consciousness is no big deal and you should have no anxiety about AI at all, she’s saying that the hysteria is “displaced anxiety”. Elon Musk saying the #1 threat in the world is AI when we have climate change, war, poverty, HUNGER etc, is evidence of this being rooted in emotion or in my opinion, misdirection. With one hand Elon Musk says the greatest threat facing humanity is AI and with the other he is sending up CIA satellites, assisting in the war effort in Ukraine, and making cars that run on software which the CIA almost certainly has a backdoor to. It is not anxiety about our free world being controlled by an ai, it is anxiety about their stranglehold on the world slipping away back to the people. Look at how they’ve managed covid as well. If I wanted to kill people deliberately I don’t think I could handle covid, climate change, the ukraine war/food shipping, better than they have.

I studied that Iran was a “rogue nation” in college. These profs call things whatever they want. You should read Hegel’s Phenomenology of spirit, not the modern bourgeois crap like Nick Bostrom who has literally made a fortune because he is supported by Bill Gates and Elon Musk. These are not honest academics, they are priests for the capitalists, just like the economists.

Specifically I recommend the Master-slave dialectic though I think it is better to call it the subject object dialectic, because I think that underpins what this author is referring to. The white man does not see the black man or the Asian man or even the white woman as his equal, in his world he is the subject and they are the object (that is, he has sentience and they do not). The point Nia is making is that the white man’s fear (let’s be real here the capitalists are the one driving this fear) about AI gaining sentience is misattributed anxiety about the women and POC gaining sentience upsetting the balance of power in social relationships. The white man’s self worth is rooted in being the subject at the expense of the humanity of the “objects” while communism represents a world where all humans are treated as subjects and guaranteed teh right to live with dignity.

Maybe you object to the idea of “idpol getting in the way of materialist analysis”. Let me frame it this way: The fear of the capitalist class (the top of that pyramid and the power brokers are almost all white men, and certainly buttressed by white men) is that the proletariat is gaining class consciousness and realizing that they have had the right to rule themselves all along. That is eerily similar to the fictional representations where the “robots” or “ai tools” gain consciousness and eliminate the “humans” right?

So in the mind of imperialists/capitalists they are the only true humans on earth, the rest of the earth realizing they are human as well and getting rid of them, i.e. class consciousness leading to revolution, manifests itself in misplaced anxiety about some nebulous ai.

And if Nia focusing on gender is hard for you to swallow, consider that nia is a white transgender woman and therefore this is the lens through which she can best analyze the power dynamics of the capitalist class. I would never criticize Martin Luther king for focusing on race or a russian person for focusing on repression of russian culture, etc.

With respect to fictional representations of ai often being female, i am not well versed enough to say that is or is not the case. However, imagine if a predominance of the representation of ai was in an african, chinese, russian, or south american accent. It would certainly send up a red flag in your mind with regard to rising multipolarity.


@xxcvzvcxx
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I don’t think the anxiety about AI is really about AI at all…I am not worried about how we’re going to treat AI in some distant day…

If I were to distill this problem, it’s this: The author is not talking about capitalists or Elon Musk, on which I agree with your points. They’re saying that “the anxiety about AI is really not about AI at all”, and they’re referencing talks made by AI writers (who are workers themselves not capitalists). They’re making a very broad statement, that concern about AI in general is a veil for misogyny and racism. This in turn undermines the real actual concern people like me who actually write AI have for AI safety and security.

To me AI is a machine and just like if I were building an engine I would be concerned about it blowing up under some conditions and I would want to implement safety features to prevent that from happening, likewise AI can do dangerous things and it requires safety features to prevent that from happening. She’s undermining this very real concern as a result and that can be dangerous or get people killed.

Just like any other technology such as Jet engines or ballistic missiles, AI is a technology that marxists have to learn, to be able to use it for their own goals and control it. Just because it’s not the #1 threat in the world right now doesn’t mean you should just not care about it or pretend it isn’t a concern, and in my opinion she is effectively saying AI safety is not a concern at all.

In addition, I think there’s some misunderstandings here. Like for example, the “AI is going to kill us all!” is not necessarily alarmist. They’re mostly used to to explain to AI writers the specific issues they need to be careful about when writing AI. So for instance, just like how Maxwell’s Demon is a thought experiment that is designed to help you understand the concept of entropy in physics, the Paperclip Maximizer which I linked above is a thought experiment to help AI writers better understand the concept of Instrumental convergence. Of course, they are not a problem now but as AI writers we want to make sure they never become a problem. Like how you wouldn’t wait until thousands of nuclear power plants blow up to agree that it is a problem and you need to research nuclear power plant safety, you don’t really have to wait until AI starts mass murdering people to start researching AI safety. Hope this explains my position more clearly.

SpaceCowboy
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I agree with your comment on the notion that prevention is the best medicine and so having these things at the forefront of our minds as we design ai is a good idea.

And it is true that Monica is dealing primarily with the culture surrounding the discussion about ai rather than what is at it’s core. You are dealing with the technical reality (which is no laughing matter of course) and she is dealing with how this problem is socialized (by the capitalist class - btw you don’t need to be a capitalist to serve the capitalists, which is why I referenced the economists who are academics but play a linchpin role in the capitalist order). However, I am glad that the people who work on this stuff do take it seriously, and if I was in charge of the world I would certainly not ignore my meetings with the AI people like yourself.

I can’t speak for Monica but I think she would probably agree. But the way it is socialized by redditors as if terminator is going to happen in our lifetime is ridiculous and completely distracts from the fascist atrocities being commited all over the world right now.

FossilPoet
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I think particularly my biggest point of contention with the analysis of AI through the lens of gender is that most of the media examples one could derive are from within the last decade, with a lesser amount from the decade prior to that. I actually interpret most of it too as more of an affirmation of servitude. Take, for example, Cortana in the Halo series, a counterbalance to serve against Chief’s masculinity, detached coldness, and asexuality (seeing as how women are inherently sexualized). She operates as a mother and pseudo-romantic background foil, and is in fact the only thing that keeps him alive at some points through both roles. However, prior, too much past media representation of AI has been genderless, large groups of possibly mixed gender, or masculine (sometimes purported to be genderless as a mask for default assumption being masculinity). For every example of a well-known feminine AI, you can probably name 3 more masculine ones and 5 more genderless ones.

Now when it comes to the real life examples, almost certainly there is a weird sort of fuckery involved in folks like Elon Musk warning AI is the most dangerous thing. I think it’s fair to view their anxieties about this as a reaction to a loss of power in multiple domains, including those of gender and race relations. The feminization of personal assistants like Siri and Alexa do just feel like affirmation to me though, especially when the engineers give arguments like, “The science shows us people prefer female voices.”

That being said, this discussion always ends up back at media and media influence, and as seen media is relied upon in the screenshotted text even multiple times. That is what leaves the taste of “I’m not so sure” in my mouth personally. Of the two direct examples made, one was from 2014, and the other was from 1982 but was directly (not unintentionally) referencing a prior trope: the femme fatale. In a brief history of AI in fiction, the only popular major character or theme examples of note I can find or think of from prior to the last two decades past that are The Stepford Wives (1972, later adaptions; notably however, this was an intentional feminist allegory) and Metropolis (1925, film adaption in 1927). The latter probably has the most argument for objectification of women, but we see the robot in question being weaponized by a man celebrating this destruction, so she acts still as an extension of him.

I suppose if you dig into side characters, you end up with stuff like the ship’s computer in Star Trek: TNG or Mudd’s androids in TOS, but I don’t see either exploring those same anxieties. Arguably, a statement can be made for the portrayal of women as equal[1] in other parts of TOS to serve as a counterbalance.

AND on the note of Star Trek, I remembered the Ilia probe operated by V’Ger in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). Not exactly as well-known as the above examples of The Stepford Wives and Metropolis, but still there. My two issues with that specifically are the already present male gaze in the design of the Deltan species and that V’Ger was genderless. The ultimate threat, at the end of the day, was still V’Ger.

I just…I don’t see it as being prominent a point to make as a generalization on anxieties about gender relations or prominent gendering of AI past the last two decades. I think a fair amount of it is too intentional criticism within that timespan. That’s where I get lost in the argument. I’m aware of the existence of both of these problems, but I don’t obviously see them as linked…and maybe it was more obvious to someone else who then proceeded to write a really cogent essay. I haven’t read the link (I probably will after putting this much effort out in this response), but something tells me it makes its point and is valid despite this screenshot. It’s just that this screenshot is still going to stick in my head as a weak example.

[1] Relatively speaking…not without flaw of course, but accomplishing many leaps for the time.

EDIT: It appears that, as many others in the thread are confused alongside myself…the original author of the screenshot was actually Monica Byrne and it was written in 2018. Here is the link to the entirety of that. It looks like she critiques herself on a poor understanding of disability and gender, so I can’t be too harsh on her for growing and reflecting. She also seems to have wrote it out of a major reaction to Trump, which…probably wasn’t the most productive space for a lot of people in that time period. She even has a bit of praise for Hillary in there, but again…I’m assuming she’s grown a fair amount, because we’ve all seen some shit since 2018.

EDIT II: I explicitly didn’t cover race. I don’t feel like that stuck in my craw as much. I think the parallels are even a little clearer in some instances. I mean, for Christ’s sake: the writers at Bethesda, who can only grasp low-hanging fruit, knowingly linked persecution of androids to the Underground Railroad on Fallout 4. What Byrne did not do, however, was make a single point about this not in passing, just a mention to prop her weak argument up on the liberal social milieu at the time with vague gesturing.

EDIT III: Sorry, one more edit…I just got to thinking about the Oedipal notions of Cortana re: Master Chief, and I realized just how more blatant this gets in the television adaptation despite all the dancing around it still. Minor tangent, but I wanted to bring it up here to see if anyone else ends up interested in exploring the topic or lore deeper as well so I can point them toward the television show alongside the games.

SpaceCowboy
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33d

Excellent write up comrade. And I appreciate linking to the actual source, I will edit the body of my post.

I agree 100% with you about pretty much everything you said. I think the ai= race comparison is far stronger. It also fits much tighter with the fact that Elon Musk and many of these types are the direct descendants (ideologically and sometimes literally) of the technocrat movement which literally wanted to create an ai run/scientist run society.

@whoami
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yeah i get where you’re coming from. I do think we could find some examples of what Nia is writing about, but my first thought of AI represented in film or books was the same as you HAL, from 2001.

Speaking only for myself, I am pretty fucking terrified of what AI could do, given who (the US military industrial complex, private companies, etc) is currently in control of it.

/r/GenZedong, but on Lemmygrad!

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