Figuring the Human in AI — Lucy Suchman

“In the case of the human, the prevailing figuration in Euro-American imaginaries is one of autonomous, rational agency, and projects of artificial intelligence reiterate that culturally specific imaginary. At stake, then, is the question of what other possible conceptions of humanness there might be, and how those might challenge current regimes of research and development in the sciences of the artificial, in which specifically located individuals conceive technologies made in their own image, while figuring the latter as universal.”

I found Suchman’s discussion around agency and autonomy really interesting, and engaging in debate regarding artificial intelligence inevitably forces us to question what it is to be human. We have continually explored this concept in class, but it seems particularly pertinent at this time in history, to use a Feminist TechnoScience perspective to examine the Western-centric, white, masculine, gendered, able-bodied biases that are prevalent in those creating and advancing our technologies and relationship with artificial intelligence. What are we teaching and imparting to, even accidentally, these machines, and what will be the repercussions?

Suchman’s thoughts on embodiment also make for interesting critique, outlining how “Feminist theorists have extensively documented the subordination, if not erasure, of the body within the Western philosophical canon.”, yet interestingly, even early ventures into artificial intelligence have proven that embodiment has been treated as “a fundamental condition for intelligence”. If that is the case, then what kind of embodiment will we grant to AI? Creative depictions of intelligent machines often adhere to extremely narrow, gender binary and heteronormative portrayals, with Alex Garland’s Ex Machina and Spike Jonze’s Her coming to mind. If this is any sign of the future, there needs to be a radical shakeup in the people creating our tech.