The political intervention in AI that we need right now...

Wed 28 June 2023

Opening remarks for the panel on 'Political Interventions in Data and AI' at #DataJustice2023

The political intervention that we need right now

is a social movement to resist AI, because a real challenge to algorithmic violence requires structural change.

AI isn't sci-fi but a radical continuity of modernity, of bureaucracy, of austerity; of the anti-worker, anti-poor contempt that stretches from Charles Babbage to Jeff Bezos. Regulation and reform are undermined by the absence of a fair status quo, but also by applying half-solutions to the entanglement of the tech and the social.

Social and technical structures are inseparable and should be understood as a whole, as an apparatus, because our concepts, our relationalities and even our subjectivities are materially constituted under specific technical arrangements. Under current conditions this apparatus is increasingly necropolitical, and AI will become part of the governance of who can live and who will be allowed to die.

We're already seeing the return of eugenics everywhere, from educational genomics to Silicon Valley's transhumanism and long termism. Meanwhile the EU, the leading light of AI regulation, consciously constructs the conditions for mass drownings in the Mediterranean.

AI itself amplifies the climate crisis through emissions, the expropriation of water and energy resources, the legitimation of green tech solutionism, and through its colonial universalism. What's missing is a social movement to resist AI that has a positive vision of more-than-human solidarities.

We need a prefigurative technopolitics; iterative interventions in both material operations and social relations that align with the world we want to live in. Like the Lucas Plan of the 1970s, where workers in a giant arms company prototyped alternatives from wind generators to hybrid vehicles, while radically democratising their workplace at the same time.

We need a movement that is Luddite in its commitment to put down machinery hurtful to the commonality, and convivial in its pursuit of a lost cybernetics that can balance autonomy and coordination. It's time to move from the dystopias of cyberpunk to the possibilities of solarpunk; to a vision of limited but creative tech in the service of social production and radical inclusion.