AI & SOCIETY

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“Super-intelligent” machine: technological exuberance or the road to subjection

Original Article
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Abstract

Looking back on the development of computer technology, particularly in the context of manufacturing, we can distinguish three big waves of technological exuberance with a wave length of roughly 30 years: In the first wave, during the 1950s, mainframe computers at that time were conceptualized as “electronic brains” and envisaged as central control unit of an “automatic factory” (Wiener). Thirty years later, during the 1980s, knowledge-based systems in computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) were adored as the computational core of the “unmanned factory”. Both waves dismally stranded on the contumacies of reality. Nevertheless, again thirty years later, we now experience the departure of the “smart factory” based on networks of “artificially intelligent” multi-agent or “cyber-physical systems” (often also addressed as “internet of things”). From the very beginning, these technological exuberances rooted in mistaken metaphors describing the artifacts (e.g. “electronic brain”, “knowledge-based” or “intelligent systems”) and, hence, in delusions about the true nature of computer systems. The behaviour of computers is, as computing science teaches us, strictly restrained to executing computable functions by means of algorithms, it thus neither resembles the performance of a brain as part of a complex sensitive living body nor is it in any meaningful sense “knowledgeable” or “intelligent” (this predicate remaining reserved for the programmer designing the algorithms). When the delusion of being able to implement “smart factories”, despite the countless accomplishment failures before, gains momentum anew, it appears absolutely essential to reflect on underlying misconceptions.

Keywords

Automatic factory Cyber-physical systems Multi-agent systems Artificial neural networks Big data Functionalism Praxeological perspective 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KarlsruheGermany

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