Manufacturing an Artificial Intelligence Revolution


While the term 'Artificial Intelligence' (AI) was coined in the 1950s, in recent years AI has become a focus of attention in mainstream media. Yet the forces behind AI's revival have been unclear. I argue here that the 'AI' label has been rebranded to promote a contested vision of world governance through big data. Major tech companies have played a key role in the rebranding, partly by hiring academics that work on big data (which has been effectively relabeled 'AI') and helping to create the sense that super-human AI is imminent. However, I argue that the latest AI systems are premised on an old behaviorist view of intelligence that's far from encompassing human thought. In practice, the confusion around AI's capacities serves as a pretext for imposing more metrics upon human endeavors and advancing traditional neoliberal policies. The revived AI, like its predecessors, seeks intelligence with a 'view from nowhere' (disregarding race, gender and class)---which can also be used to mask institutional power in visions of AI-based governance. Ultimately, AI's rebranding showcases how corporate interests can rapidly reconfigure academic fields. It also brings to light how a nebulous technical term (AI) may be exploited for political gain.

SSRN (2017)