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Humanist Archives: Dec. 30, 2021, 9:21 a.m. Humanist 35.432 - being 'critical' about AI

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 432.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2021-12-29 08:04:22+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: the 'critical' in critical artificial intelligence

Here is a corrective, from Thyrza Nichols Goodeve's interview of Donna
Haraway in How Like a Leaf (Routledge, 2000), pp. 110-11. The relevant
bit for my purposes is Goodeve's comment on Haraway's notion of "worldly":

> TNG: One of the most important things I have learned from you is a
> notion of criticality that moves beyond mere " criticism"-beyond
> didactic, diagnostic criticality. This is especially interesting to
> me because lately I've been realizing how what counts as critical
> theory is more amenable to history than I ever thought before. This
> most likely has to do with my position in the art world, where
> critical art has taken on all sorts of different dimensions from
> generation to generation. But recently I've become less and less sure
> what people mean by " critical." Your notion of criticality is
> strikingly different from the traditional notion of critical meaning
> breaking down arguments and seeing where power lies. Does " critical"
> only mean having an argument? I'm thinking of art that by way of
> producing new meanings offers a critical breakthrough-opening up and
> producing. Critical work can be a productive not just a negative
> activity. I read this wonderful distinction recently that said theory
> should found change not find it. I had this problem in graduate
> school. I always read for what a text gives me rather than what it
> doesn't and so I was continually taken aback when "reading" meant
> everyone descended on some author yelling about all the things he or
> she left out. Looking only for the flaws or the absences seems like
> such a weird way to learn. In fact it seems like the opposite of
> learning.

I quote the above for the direction away from finding things wrong with
official AI and its bandwagons to coming up with better ideas of what
artificial intelligence could be -- ones good enough to cause that
'critical' breakthrough. We should not underestimate what a challenge
this poses.



Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

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