The Problem with Intelligence: Its Value-Laden History and the Future of AI

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This paper argues that the concept of intelligence is highly value-laden in ways that impact on the field of AI and debates about its risks and opportunities. This value-ladenness stems from the historical use of the concept of intelligence in the legitimation of dominance hierarchies. The paper first provides a brief overview of the history of this usage, looking at the role of intelligence in patriarchy, the logic of colonialism and scientific racism. It then highlights five ways in which this ideological legacy might be interacting with debates about AI and its risks and opportunities: 1) how some aspects of the AI debate perpetuate the fetishization of intelligence; 2) how the fetishization of intelligence impacts on diversity in the technology industry; 3) how certain hopes for AI perpetuate notions of technology and the mastery of nature; 4) how the association of intelligence with the professional class misdirects concerns about AI; and 5) how the equation of intelligence and dominance fosters fears of superintelligence. This paper therefore takes a first step in bringing together the literature on intelligence testing, eugenics and colonialism from a range of disciplines with that on the ethics and societal impact of AI.

Journal Title
Proceedings of the 2020 AAAI/ACM Conference on AI, Ethics, and Society
Conference Name
AIES 2020: AAAI/ACM Conference on AI, Ethics, and Society
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Volume Title
Association for Computing Machinery
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