We live in an age of artificial intelligence (AI). Machines think and act in ever more complex ways, increasingly making prognoses, suggestions, and decisions on our behalf. Whilst AI might be seen as practical and profitable, issues of data surveillance, algorithmic control, and sexist and racist bias persist. In this rapidly changing landscape, social analysis of AI risks getting scaled down to issues of ‘ethics’, ‘responsibility’ and ‘fairness’. While these are important issues, they must be addressed not from an ‘AI first’ perspective, but more thoroughly in terms of power and contention.
In this book, AI is approached from the perspective of critical social theory – an often-muted voice in this discussion. It provides a much-needed intervention on how both old and new social theories aid in approaching and conceptualising the social consequences of AI. It poses questions about the ideologies driving AI, the mythologies surrounding AI, and the complex relationship between AI and power. Simon Lindgren, a leading scholar of digital technology and society, provides a way of defining AI as an object of social and political critique, and guides the reader through a set of contentious areas where AI and politics intersect. In relation to all of these areas, critical theories are drawn upon both as an argument for and an illustration of how AI can be critiqued.
Simon Lindgren is a professor of Sociology at Umeå University in Sweden. He is the director of DIGSUM, an interdisciplinary academic research centre studying the social dimensions of digital technology, and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Digital Social Research.