Roger-Pol Droit’s “philosophy” column: living among intelligent machines

“Virtual servitudes”, by Jean-Michel Ganascia, Seuil, “Open Science”, 282 p., €21, digital €15.

“The Benevolence of Machines. How the digital transforms us without our knowledge”, by Pierre Cassou-Noguès, Seuil, “The color of ideas”, 332 p., €23, digital €17.

They monitor and report everything. Weather in a moment, better route home, new album that we will like. They also manage our calendars, address books, income and expenses. They take our pulse, count our steps, filter our messages, monitor our homes. Impossible, or almost, to live away from the universe they have built, with our permanent complicity and our sometimes amazed sometimes suspicious submission. Talking to friends, shopping, paying taxes, working in an office, all of this is now almost inconceivable without the intermediary of screens, applications and passwords. Intelligent machines are on their way to being ubiquitous and omniscient. It has therefore become commonplace to discuss their powers, beneficial or dangerous.

This is where Jean-Gabriel Ganascia comes in, anxious to undermine many pretenses. Professor at Sorbonne University, specialist in artificial intelligence and author of a dozen books on the nature of our robots, their impact and their myths, he projects this time, with virtual easements, to set some clocks back on time. Because too often, in his eyes, the analyzes focus on imaginary threats, but are silent on the risks, very real, that they do not even see.

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Multiple ethics committees accumulate reports and warnings. In fact, they are blowing the wind. Their calls for respect for dignity or privacy often miss the mark, even as clearly formulated projects by Elon Musk (Tesla, etc.) or Mark Zuckerberg (Meta), which would result in short-circuiting everything free individual choice, do not arouse any protest. Jean-Gabriel Ganascia paints an intelligent and educated picture of these paradoxes. In passing, he also underlines a political danger: “If Europe does not pull itself together, the regulatory idea of ​​sovereignty, at the foundation of the rule of law and of political philosophy, (…) already so much undermined by the big players on the Web and by authoritarian empires like China and Russia, will disappear completely. »

A consciousness in the form of a flat screen

The philosopher Pierre Cassou-Noguès, professor of philosophy at the University of Paris-VIII, also approaches the world of intelligent machines, but from another angle. He seeks what is transformed, day by day, under their influence, in our subjectivities and our moods, in our relationship to the world and to ourselves. Summoning in turn contemporaries – in particular Foucault, Derrida, Zizek – and fictional devices, his analysis shows in detail that we entrust more and more to applications and their algorithms the role of informing us about our own feelings, desires and projects. Machines watch over us, good or bad, from inside as much as from outside, at the risk of seeing them replace the “inner life” of yesteryear, and its innumerable labyrinths, by a consciousness in the form of a flat screen.

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Roger-Pol Droit’s “philosophy” column: living among intelligent machines


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