Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 15, No 1 (2019)

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The Child is the Parent of the Geist: Artificial General Intelligence Between Tenacity and Tenebrosity

Thomas Moynihan

Abstract


Anticipation concerning future Artificial General Intelligence need not be received as tenebrous doom. It may also be answered as the summons to a tenacious task. Reza Negarestani’s Intelligence and Spirit makes a confident case for tenacity as opposed to tenebrosity. Taking Negarestani’s book as the point of departure, this article traces the foment of such a dispute on mind’s prospects back to its sources in the Enlightenment, for, then as now, debate over the nature of intelligence is never not also the contestation for its future. Through such recollection we reveal the continuing illegitimacy of anti-humanist augury. For today’s prophets of superintelligent doom are revealed to be unwitting heirs to a semantic error that, first emerging as soon as Kant asked the question ‘What is Enlightenment?’, mistakes sapience’s power to be right with mere power to be. Accordingly, supererogation becomes mere superfluity and meaningfulness collapses into maximalization. Hence recurrent portents concerning AI ‘maximizers’. One finds the same conceit in the post-humanist confidence that blind profusion can deliver us from ever having to employ shepherding values in intellogenesis. Yet, despite parading as hard-nosed disillusion, this predilection for proliferation—long rallied by those who oppose austere enlightenment—is revealed to be merely a yearning for the arrogated in thought and is thus a form of radical circumspection because it constitutes a refusal of the risks of being held accountable. Consequently, tenebrosity is shown to be unfit for the tenacities demanded by intelligence’s oncoming task.


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