At the Baffler website, Pedro Neves Marques tells the story of Sophia, an AI robot designed to look like Audrey Hepburn, who can engage in complex conversations and who was recently granted full citizenship by Saudi Arabia. Marques argues that the danger of human-like robots like Sophia is not so much that they will take over and destroy humanity, but that they will be granted rights while migrants—such as those who build Saudi Arabia's skyscrapers—will continue to be denied them. Read an excerpt from the piece below, or the full text here.
But that’s just where the farce begins. Once a minimally convincing AI is achieved, it is Sophia’s factory ecosystem that must be automated—either by further robots (that is, the replication of class hierarchy among robots) or by “Amazon Turks” on the end of the line (client support will answer from India).
Sophia embodies a clash between futures. By perpetuating a modern capitalist mentality, one that incorporates white tech’s vision of the future—with its fears of AI (very much palpable in San Francisco!)—she becomes an affront to other possible futures, including Afro-Futurism and Indigenous Futurism. These movements have long imagined other android dreams, which have nothing to do with any tech summit.
At the same time, her recently acquired citizenship is also revealing of future forms of capitalism that are central to such summits: Tech Capitalism, Sino Capitalism, and Arab Capitalism. Faced with the failing state of a modern-secular form of capitalism, US and EU led (historical differences notwithstanding), these capitalist futures forge agreements with cultural, anthropological, and religious practices formerly reproved. Today, these agreements define ontological fault lines, which may reinforce or dismiss human ≠ nonhuman, life ≠ death binaries. In all these futures, capitalist and otherwise, we in the “former West” are the barbarians.
Image: AI-based robot Sophia. Via singularityhub.com.