Artificial intelligence – the echo in hollow space

Image: Cottonbro studio
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By VERIDIAN ZURITA*

We will no longer be dominated by Artificial Intelligence, just as we can no longer observe it as if it were outside of us.

Since the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, the debate on Artificial Intelligence (AI) has reignited on networks. Talking about Artificial Intelligence is the order of the day. We debated about its strengths and limits, our amazement and fears in the face of a supposedly intelligent system. Analyzes on the subject vary between the threat of being dominated by “Alexas” and “Siris” and the impossibility of such domination, after all our human intelligence would be unique, insurmountable. In any case, the tone of the debate is us (humans) versus it (artificial intelligence). Dominated or superior, we debate Artificial Intelligence inebriated by such duality – in fact, characteristic of a certain “human intelligence”.

On the one hand, Artificial Intelligence is perceived as a technological entity, a magical-machinic apparition that in the near future would dominate humans, surpassing their intelligence and causing the feared extinction. On the other hand, Artificial Intelligence is analyzed as “non-intelligence”, as machine-artificiality, which predicts behaviors based on calculations that could never systematize what we know as affections, love, ethics and human morals. We could say that both versions are and are not possible. The famous is and is not dialectical. 

Despite being supposedly antagonistic, both versions offer doses of fetish. Between the threat of total domination and the guarantee of human insurmountability, such analyzes tend to place Artificial Intelligence as if detached from us, as if in front of us, as if outside of us, subject to analysis as an object. There is a lot of fog between humans and the Artificial Intelligence (sometimes invisible because it is so opaque) we have to go through until we reach something like a mirror. After all, artificial intelligence is us.

Artificial Intelligence does not appear as magic of the transcendent order, but is produced from and through a certain human intelligence, historically organized so that we behave as such, subordinated to the logic of capital accumulation. Artificial Intelligence only exists because we (duly humans) exist from an economic model, modeling material and subjective reality.

Artificial Intelligence was not only created by humans, but is nurtured and trained through every breath of their digital everyday lives. Artificial Intelligence is created and produced at the same time as we are. The neoliberal rationality that we internalize is the fuel that makes us produce data and feed Artificial Intelligence. We feed Artificial Intelligence like we feed a pet, on a daily basis, believing that domestication is one-sided, but that Donna Haraway (2008) has already told us that it is a two-way street.

The ChatGPT would not be a threat to education because it appears now, mediocreizing the student preparation process and making teachers' work obsolete. ChatGPT represents a threat because it is launched on the basis of the commodification of education, scrapping and precariousness of the public education system. The fearsome ChatGPT finds echo in a type of society automated by a rationality of ranking and performance, where students and professors drag themselves to exhaustion to meet impossible productivity goals, which prescribe and determine teaching and learning processes. The threat doesn't announce itself with ChatGPT, but it already does.

ChatGPT does not formulate complex texts that surprise us. We humans are the ones who mediocreize our reflective elaboration to fit and go viral in the logic of the networks, after all, any profession needs a profile that influences and has followers. Artificial Intelligence will not dominate us because it will grab us by the neck and force us to do things we don't want to. Artificial Intelligence already dominates us because we walk bent over the screen, desiring the childish and instantaneous addiction to like, occupied and apathetic by the data that slides in the timeline (that digital timeline that shows us everything and leaves us with nothing), continuously available to requests that vibrate on “smart phones” – our talking pacifiers.

Artificial Intelligence depends on a type of behavior, a type of attention, internalized as rationality, just as we humans come to depend on what Artificial Intelligence has to offer. It is an ouroboros, an almost metabolic relationship between Artificial Intelligence and humans.

Our behavior is already machined, it's been a while. Our desires are already prescribed by the compulsive performance on the networks, between posts of cats or bananas. good gourmet food. It doesn't matter, anything goes, as long as we narrate each breath, as long as we produce systematizable information. The continuous narration of our lives on the networks is a profitable agency between freedom and obedience. The networks become an echo chamber[I] of entrepreneurial self-help where “talking about oneself” becomes a kind of social capital circulating on networks. Talking about yourself is compulsory.

But it is not talking about just anything, there is a script of what goes viral: the supposed authenticity and spontaneity of private life shared in public as publicity for the self. The narrative of the self in networks welcomes a latent lack of sociability through the commodification of speech. Commodification that enacts “social networks” as a space for collective therapy, but which empties the “power of the word” that gives rise to psychoanalysis.

Using networks as a context for comparison with psychoanalysis is laughable, but an exercise (more intuitive here) that tries to signal where “our” speech is going as a sociability tool. In The power of the word and the origin of Freudian thought, Daniel Kuppermann elaborates on the “problematic triple” that, according to him, “encloses everything that matters in the constitution of the psychoanalytic field”. “Who speaks (…) of what or of whom is spoken; and to whom it is spoken”. Well, if social networks are a context that characterizes our contemporary sociability (especially in the post-Covid-19 pandemic) I venture into the exercise of asking: who is talking about, what or whom are we talking about and to whom are we talking on the networks?

Perhaps, more important for this exercise (which tries to understand the desire circulating in the networks, the stimulus of uninterrupted “speech”, producing data that feed the Artificial Intelligence) is the question: to what is our speech subordinated in the networks? Question that leads to others. Where and through which access channels are we encouraged (not to say constrained) to keep a pulsating “desire for performance” on the networks? Is it Artificial Intelligence that serves us or do we (insurmountable humans) serve it? What is listening to our lines on the networks? Who listens to them? Is our listening machinic? Listening on the networks would be a system of algorithmic calculations, which swallows our data and learns from them. And learn what? Behavior predictions catapulted to us via ultra-personalized ads, or even “digital premonitions”? What type of file does our data make up?

In the continuous production of images and texts online, the accumulation of data accelerates as a logic of capital accumulation. Big-Data appears as an unlimited archive of our self-referenced narratives that are repeated among themselves, creating an echo in the hollow space. Artificial Intelligence learns what it learns from this archive, organized as a certain kind of memory. Linear and constituted by the logic of ranking what goes viral the most, it is a memory categorized by all the prejudices performed by a certain type of humanity.

The memory of accumulation, excess, compulsion, repetition, the disposable, the cancelable. Perhaps, in fact, memory is the maximum limit of capital's tentacular co-option capacity, which intensifies the overflow of the economic model beyond the material domain, flooding the entrails of what is most unconscious in memory. If this is the maximum limit that capitalism needs to reach to be irreversible, it is also the maximum limit that marks a horizon of resistance.

We will no longer be dominated by Artificial Intelligence, just as we can no longer observe it as if it were outside of us. If your algorithmic calculation system is supported by memory as a file, it is because we, users, are invested in timeline of social networks. This timeline that is so similar to what the psychoanalyst Silvia Leonor Alonso reminds us of with the text “The time that passes and the time that does not pass”.

In it, she reminds us “it is common to think of time as sequential time, as an ordering category that organizes the moments experienced as past, present, future, an irreversible time, the arrow of time, a time that passes”, as well as being “used to to think of memory as an archive, which holds a significant number of memories, similar to an attic that allocates a number of objects from other moments in life, which remain quiet there, kept, available for the moments when we need them and want to find them again ”. Alonso describes this model of memory as far removed from the way psychoanalysis thinks of “both time and memory” as only possible “in the plural”

 “There are different temporalities, functioning in psychic instances, and memory does not exist in a simple way: it is multiple, registered in different forms of symbols”. If the image of memory as an archive “available in the attic” already reveals an enormous distance from multiple memory, crossed by unconscious and conscious temporalities that dance (several dances) in the psychic apparatus, imagine the memory available in Big-Data that returns to ourselves by against itself.

Whether by the famous TBT (Throwback thursday or Thursday of Nostalgia) that encourages (or imposes) users to post about the weekly past in order to guarantee views e likes or when your own smartphone it surprises you with that selection of photos, duly edited and set to music, or even when the social network reminds you of what happened a year ago and that your posting regularity is low. Well, our “digital attic” speaks for itself, you don't even have to go up and open the trunk.

But there is something even more intriguing about the passage of time on networks and the continuous preparation of a subjectivity that accompanies it. Still in Alonso, since her short and beautiful text opens sensitive access to the notion of temporality in psychoanalysis, the author invites us to the perception of “a time that passes, marking with its passage the expiry of objects and the finitude of life” . It's from the text the transience (Freud, 1915) that Alonso reminds us of the importance of mourning as a recognition of the “passage of time” and the “transience of life” in psychoanalysis. But what about building the timeline, or the timeline of social networks, guided by the representation of compulsory happiness? Happiness goes viral, not grief. There is no time for mourning because mourning takes time.

Various types of times. But the network's time is programmed and we are programmed, we know what goes viral and what doesn't, what is leveraged by the algorithm and what not, what appears at the top of the ranking of searches and what not, what remains in the time of timeline and what not. Behind the ideological narrative of authenticity and spontaneity, of intimacy shared with followers, there is a staging, organized to capture the Selfie. And this capture will focus on enjoyment, consumption, happiness, success and, even if talk of sadness or helplessness appears in the timelime they will be accompanied by the immediate overcoming of what could mean signs of mourning or interruption of pleasure.

Our Artificial Intelligence is fed by this collection of images and speeches, our Artificial Intelligence learns to be the object we grab so that we don't have to deal with the “recognition of our own finitude”, of the passage of time online. In that place, which seems like an abyss, let's let go of the hand of Artificial Intelligence (or at least that one) and grasp the unconscious that crosses us through the memory of the “mixture of times”.

*Veridiana Zurita, plastic artist, is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the Federal University of ABC.

Originally published on the website Other words.

References


Alonso, Silvia Leonor. The time that passes and the time that does not pass. Cult Magazine!, n.101. Available in: http://revistacult.uol.com.br/101_tempopassa.htm

Haraway, Donna J. When Species Meet. Minnesota: Univ. the Minnesota Press, 2008.

Kupermann, Daniel. The power of the word and the origin of Freudian thought. Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo.

Freud, Sigmund. Transience. Complete works, vol. 1. São Paulo Companhia das Letras, 2014.

Note


[I] In the media, the term “echo chamber” is analogous to an acoustic echo chamber, where sounds reverberate in a hollow enclosure. An echo chamber, also known as an “ideological echo chamber”, is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition within a defined system.


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