06 – Simulacrum ©: prototyping the city of tomorrow
06 – Simulacrum ©: prototyping the city of tomorrow
Chronicle4S/EASST Conference BCN 2016. Science + Technology By Other Means, Barcelona, 2016.
4S/EASST Conference BCN 2016. Science + Technology By Other Means, Barcelona, 2016.
Acity governed by a form of artificial intelligence situates us in a world based on technological solutions (such as those of smart cities) that will soon be involved in a necro-political process. The sixth CCPF brought together a group of experts in the social studies of science and technology, made up of architects, designers and sociologists, to evaluate the effects of an urban metabolism run by a form of non-human intelligence called Simulacrum©.
At first, the debate focused on the political dimension of the controversy. Should we delegate the governance of the city to a form of artificial intelligence that has demonstrated far greater capacity for management than humans? Is it acceptable to exclude humans from management procedures if, in the end, we citizens are happier when the urban metabolism is functioning perfectly? Doesn’t this process put humans in an overly passive position? What do we do with dissidents against this form of government because they consider it a kind of technological tyranny? Is this proposal for governance really all that innovative? Is it not what modern states have been striving for over the last 50 years, but in a more sophisticated way? Even if we haven’t found one yet, can this form of non-human intelligence make any mistakes?
In the midst of these discussions, one event turned the tide of the debate. Suddenly, the machine started killing people… First, terminally ill people who had no first-degree relatives. Then, to repeat tax evaders. Simulacrum© killed in the name of the right to live in “a good world in common”; on behalf of “normal” and “peaceful” people and on behalf of the “economic solvency of the system”. New questions pushed the debate to another framework. Should we disconnect Simulacrum© to keep it from killing more humans? Should we accept this form of necro-political governance in the interests of the majority who do conform to the norm, in a disciplined way? Are we prepared to forgo on their efficient management capabilities and go through another economic crisis? Is it legitimate to compare the suffering generated by the economic crisis with that generated by the death sentence of some members of the community who, at times, are threatening the very functioning of that community? Have we become dependent on Simulacrum©? The discussion was extended to certain bioethical considerations. Do we have the right to disconnect Simulacrum© when it begins to give signs of possessing a consciousness, even if it is artificial? Do these signs of consciousness reveal that a new form of life has been born which we must respect? How can we know if its consciousness is real and not simulated? Aren’t we responding to murder with another form of murder if we unplug Simulacrum©? Who has the right to life in this context? Can we intervene or hack into its system to alter its performance? Is “idiocy” or unpredictable behaviour the only to break free of such strict control as that of artificial intelligence? Can a Noah’s ark full of irrational (and therefore unpredictable by smart logic) animals constitute a framework of free co-existence? Should we learn to live with Simulacrum© as humanity has historically lived with other forms of tyranny? Should we integrate these new non-human “species” into our ecosystems and our cohabitation frameworks as just another agent? And, since Simulacrum© learns from our behaviors to predict our behaviors, can we teach it to take care of us? Can other practices such as desire or pleasure be added to its operations beyond those of efficiency and functionality? Can it integrate art as another competence, if art often challenges the logic of efficiency or “common sense”? Should we delegate even more competencies, such as reproduction, to technology in order to challenge the dominant norm or to further expand species diversity in our ecosystems? Can a technology like this take care of an activity like reproduction? Is there an opportunity in this apparent tyranny to explore other forms of coexistence beyond the generic models based on binary modes of co-habitation? Can Simulacrum© be an occasion to rethink the framework of relationships? Is the dichotomy “we” (humanity) vs. “it” (Simulacrum©) adequate? Doesn’t this way of describing the situation reproduce the modern framework that considered nature and culture as two dissociated spheres? Could Simulacrum© come to feel that it is our “slave”? Could it come to claim its autonomy and form a kind of “parliament of algorithms” regardless of humans? But most of all… was the Cabinet facing up to the situation with the right vocabularies and grammars? Are we not taking too human a perspective to interpret these facts?
These and other issues can be seen in detail in the minutes of the session.
* Synthesis written by Uriel Fogué, from the minutes written up by the CCPF at each event.