Mark Koekelberg’s review, “Self-improvement”

Mark Koeckelberg, professor of media and technology philosophy at the University of Vienna, has written extensively on digital tools and the means of communication that many of us call “new”, although he is clearly hesitant about the term. “New” is a label that hides more than it identifies. “Finally,” he wrote, “these technologies are no longer experienced as ‘new’, as they have been integrated and transformed with the way we live … Learning technology and learning culture are no longer two completely different things. Using digital technology and There is no more gap in the realization of the world. “

That point is made towards the end Self-improvement: The technology of the soul in the age of artificial intelligence (Columbia University Press) – with one of Koeckelberg’s two new books AI’s political philosophy (Politics). Given the obvious overlap of their focus on AI, it seems reasonable to try to cover them at the same time. But the differences are as striking as convergence. The reviewer feels a bit like a boa constrictor that has swallowed up a couple of still active mammals. It’s too late to change plans, but digestion feels more challenging than expected. This will be the first of two columns dedicated to the effort.

Coeckelbergh is about artificial intelligence As a partial exception to his own caution about new technology. It still has some unfamiliarity and uncertain possibilities that say, 20 years ago broadband connected the internet. The potential (or, logically, reproduction) of technology capable of mimicking people’s ability to learn, make decisions, and develop more complex functions remains somewhat science-fiction – even people come to rely on it. Search engine AI works on a daily basis, capable of answering a vague question with surprisingly relevant links.

“Since the technology is still new,” Koekelberg wrote Self improvement“We strive to realize this and integrate it into our culture, which is already changing because of AI.”

Estimating the speed and nature of change is a normal part of the process, but the author’s interest lies more in understanding personal and political implications as they now find themselves out. Inside Self improvement, His focus is on how digital technologies have become part of a person’s sense of identity and the potential for personal change. The recent development of what Michel Foucault called “his own technology” অভ habits that began to emerge in antiquity through which individuals sought to monitor, control, develop, and / or liberate their inner life হোক be it part of a religious tradition or more secular. Predispositional forms of this type of “technology” include ethical inventory, journal retention and reading courses.

The contemporary pursuit of self-improvement sometimes involves old practices, but Koeckelberg emphasizes that it is the product of a culture of self-improvement and competition stimulated by chronic dissatisfaction. Drawing on a 2017 market research report, Coeckelbergh notes that self-improvement is a $ 11 billion industry in the United States. “Given the demand for personal coaching services, self-help books and audiobooks and weight loss programs,” the report estimates an annual growth rate of about 4.8 percent. (A recent survey I received indicates that sales have shrunk by 10 percent by 2020, although they appear to be limited again.)

In addition to just the products and services mentioned, social media and a variety of self-monitoring devices have become part of the self-improvement dynamics. It seems fair to say that Koekelberg is not enthusiastic about this. “The silent dialogues and slow humanistic self-development that occurred while writing and reading the book have been replaced by loud, screaming and quick self-reflections that try to give birth to desperation,” he wrote. “Or rather: shelves that are under construction and need regular updates … need to perform themselves: every day, every hour, and especially every minute.”

It could be an exaggeration, But it’s not really wrong. The situation is not new. The novelty stopped a while ago. It has become static — or perhaps, the antecedent of static, which is now subject to artificial transformation through artificial intelligence. For AI, the shelf is a huge cloud of data points. As the author puts it Self improvement“All my clicks, mouse movements, keyboard entries, and downloads are recorded and processed computationally, and this data is transferred around the world and analyzed, stored, sold and used. Correlations are found, probabilities are calculated, which book I will buy, how much energy I will use, and predictions will be made about whether there will be crime around me. ” সক্ষমAnd able to evaluate its decisions that you may not have noticed.This sounds either convenient or scary, and probably both.

However, AI effectively addresses the challenge posed by Socrates Oracle: “Know yourself.” Everyone now has a measurable-data doppelganger that is following their surroundings. AI, Note Koeckelberg, “is not just information about me that I didn’t have before; I may not even have access to that information, for example when data is captured and analyzed without my knowledge. If what AI does disappears, AI knows more, and those who hire AI know more about me than I do. “Is that a problem? If so, what kind? We will consider Koeckelberg’s views on the subject in the next column.

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