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Dystopian or Utopian? Two Images of Alan Turing

Gonçalves, Bernardo (2020) Dystopian or Utopian? Two Images of Alan Turing. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Turing made intriguing statements about the future of artificial intelligence (AI) in society. He predicted that machines would eventually ‘compete with men in all purely intellectual fields,’ and added that at some stage they could be expected ‘to take control.’ Turing has been associated by his biographer, Andrew Hodges, with Dr. Frankenstein from Mary Shelley’s dystopian novel. However, he has also been described by his contemporary Geoffrey Jefferson as a ‘scientific’ Percy B. Shelley, the English Romantic poet who was posthumously championed as a utopian and radical thinker. This article then asks: in what way did Turing envision a society permeated with intelligent machines? Did he see it as a utopia or a dystopia? These questions are thoroughly examined using Turing’s own texts and related sources. This study reconstructs Turing’s historical context in postwar England and analyzes his irony and sense of humor, as well as the influence of Samuel Butler on his vision. Contrary to recent views in AI science and fiction, on the one hand, a mismatch is shown between Turing and the incautious Frankenstein; on the other hand, Turing’s radical Shelley-like qualities are substantiated. The article shows that Turing’s utopianism entrusted intelligent machines with the task of teaching lessons of rationality and intellectual integrity over our place in nature and prejudices. Further, Turing’s irony is shown to have targeted intellectuals who sacrifice independent thinking to retain their power. These, he hoped, would be eventually rivaled and surpassed by intelligent machines.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Gonçalves, Bernardobegoncalves@usp.br0000-0003-2794-8478
Keywords: Alan Turing, Dystopia, Utopia, Modern Prometheus, History of artificial intelligence, Future of artificial intelligence and machine learning
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > History of Philosophy
Specific Sciences > Artificial Intelligence
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Values In Science
Depositing User: Dr. Bernardo Gonçalves
Date Deposited: 01 May 2022 16:36
Last Modified: 01 May 2022 16:36
Item ID: 20533
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > History of Philosophy
Specific Sciences > Artificial Intelligence
General Issues > Science and Society
General Issues > Values In Science
Date: 31 December 2020
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/20533

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