Artificial intelligence: a myth updated

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of those mobilizing concepts whose function is to respond with a dream to a desire or a fear. Fear or desire come to the same thing because both are a discourse on a lack (1) . This lack that we all have in common: that of the feeling of not being able to act on our environment.

We can only be fascinated when we witness the prowess of systems like “Deep Blue” or “Watson (2)”. But there is in these presentations an important part of staging which aims to make people dream about possibilities.

The desire for artificial intelligence is based on the lack of power as well as the fear of its own power, as illustrated by the myth of the Golem. What we have been experiencing for a long time with the machine which multiplies the forces of man and allows him to destroy what does not serve his immediate interest to the detriment of his future interest.

Dumb as an AI

The emergence of the concept of “artificial intelligence” forces us to reflect on what is behind the word intelligence. If intelligence comes down to cognitive power then we can say that indeed there can be an artificial intelligence. In this case we can speak more modestly and less commercially that we are dealing with an Automated Information Flow Management system (FATF). The famous GAFA (3) which we talk about so much, are essentially GAFI.

Human intelligence is not simply about cognitive power. Intelligence is also a certain ability to adapt while learning. It means being able to modify information management processes to modify decision-making. Here again, the machine has conquered a space hitherto reserved for humans with “deep learning”: a system capable of modifying its own processes in an autonomous manner. But there is always somewhere a human hidden behind the machine.

Even if the public is hypnotized by the apparent mechanics, there is always, as in the “mechanical Turkish (4)”, a human intention which does not show itself. The autonomy of the machine is, whatever happens, determined by the will of a human. The process cannot exist without a human setting it in motion by intention. If the machine seems autonomous it does not self-determine.

The machine only automatically manages a process intended to support a human intention. An intention that is determined by a certain awareness of oneself in an environment and the imagination of a solution to modify the relationship that the individual maintains with his environment.

It’s a bit what makes the difference between the machine and the human. If the machine knows how to manage flows of information and modify its own processes, it depends largely on a human in its reflexive capacity and its capacity to imagine something and to make it coherent with reality by confrontation with this reality and successive adjustments. . This is undoubtedly what characterizes human intelligence: the ability to imagine reality and to produce the adjustments necessary to achieve it.

Objectivity of technical rationality

Behind the notion of artificial intelligence there is an undertone of rational objectivity which is to be questioned.

For example: the facial recognition systems developed are very efficient in recognizing a white man in America or an Asian in China, but much less in recognizing a black woman.

The explanation is quite simple: programming the machine is done by making it swallow an astronomical amount of data (millions of photos) and letting the deep learning system generalize characteristics and produce categories. The way we feed the machine influences its modes of generalization and categorization. If she is only given white men to see she will characterize from what she has learned. Thus, the functioning of the automated management of information flows will be largely determined by the intention (conscious or not) of the person who will program the machine. The illusion of objectivity quickly disappears as soon as humans introduce their hidden or unconscious intentions and their systematically biased practices.

AI orthosis or prosthesis?

Like the machines of the industrial era which multiplied the physical strength of men by increasing it by inserting a device between the intention of man and reality, artificial intelligence increases intellectual strength. , multiplies its power by inserting a device between the intention of man and reality.

But like the machine with regard to physical strength, this does not exclude bias and misuse. It only increases the strength of the intention, constructive or destructive.

“Increasing” does not replace. In this sense, artificial intelligence does not replace human intelligence as a prosthesis replaces a limb. She tries to fit it to increase its power or compensate for its weaknesses, like an orthosis.

Intelligence: cognitive power or ability to interact?

The emergence of assistance systems (steam engine, laser, artificial intelligence) systematically awakens the desire of men to equal the power of the Gods. The issue here is desire, not power. As Lacan said, desire is born of lack and not the other way around. Desire is a discourse on a lack. Each new invention appears as a means at our disposal to calm our feeling of not being powerful enough, of not being able to control our environment, nature.

A machine capable of managing billions of information represents a dream of power in the face of our intimate feeling of being incapable of managing more than 7 information in a row.

But reducing the measure of intelligence to our ability to manage information leads to a mechanistic conception of intelligence.

A reasoning that led a Polish MEP to declare without laughing that it was normal for women to be paid less than men since they were less intelligent. The proof of their lesser intelligence is that in the first hundred world chess there is no woman. When we know a little about the world of mental superpowers, whether in business, in research or in other exploits of this type, we can sometimes wonder if not being part of it is not a kind of guarantee of psychic health and intelligence!

Artificial intelligence allows us to question our conception of intelligence. Cognitive power is only a criterion of intelligence in societies fascinated by the mind like ours. Contrary to appearances, we do not think with our head (our cognition). Cognition is a formalization tool that serves to witness the results of the practice of one’s intelligence in a socially communicable way.

Beyond the cognitive power that can be its instrument, intelligence is the ability to interact responsibly with oneself and one’s environment. Facebook used for its computing power to elect Trump is not intelligence insofar as it does not participate in a fruitful and constructive relationship with the world.

This is the myth of the Golem. We live almost in the first degree the myth of the Golem with the civilization of silicon. For the record, the myth of the Golem tells that a man succeeded in giving life to a statue of sand (sand is silicon) and his creation devoid of consciousness escapes him and begins to destroy the world. Nothing new ! Just amnesia! We constantly verify that “Science without conscience is only ruin of the Soul” and incidentally of nature.

To be intelligent is perhaps also to be “in intelligence” with one’s human and non-human environment. But it is also to be in intelligence with oneself. To have an awareness of oneself and others such that one is able to perceive the effects one has on people and our relationship to the world before the consequences come back to us.

Cognitive power is at the service of intelligence but it is not intelligence. Our “mental” conception of intelligence can be seen as a form of perversion. Perversion in the sense that the means becomes the end. The instrument that is the mind is no longer at the service of an intention. He takes power. This is what we will find in the use of new tools such as smartphones among the most immature (5): the goal is the tool and there is no longer any other goal than to use the tool.

Intelligence, a capacity for reflection?

One can be fascinated by the spectacle of these humanoid robots capable of interacting with humans by answering their questions. We have the impression that they respond as if they know that we exist as humans. Which supposes by corollary that they are aware that they even exist. But does the Robot know that it exists?

What characterizes human intelligence is the awareness that each of us has of his own existence. It is the capacity that each of us has to be attentive to others, to the world and to ourselves. It is this attention that will determine his intelligence. To be attentive is to make the conscious choice to consider all the elements of the environment, beyond what the situation lets me see, in order to make a decision.

We remember that Google’s FATF recently censored Courbet’s painting “the origin of the world” or the photo of this naked little girl fleeing a napalm bombardment during the Viet-Nam war. This censorship comes from the fact that the FATF responds to an anti-porno-pedophilia rule and censors what it recognizes as resembling it. In this sense he is not able to be attentive to the context, to consider the environment, the intention of the message and the project of the messenger.

To do this, he would have to be able to take a critical look at his perception. Which would suppose an awareness that he is a watching subject whose perception could be criticized. The question that we can ask artificial intelligence if we meet it one day in the street, could be: how do you know that you exist?

As long as artificial intelligence cannot answer this question (without having been programmed for it) we can wonder if it is really a question of intelligence.


1) As Lacan said: desire born of lack and not the other way around.

2) FATF system developed by IBM and capable of beating the best at chess or Go game

3) GAFA. the 4 great Golems born from our desire for power: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon to which we can add M & A. for Microsoft and ALibaba

4) The mechanical Turk or chess-playing automaton is a famous hoax built at the end of the 18th century: it was an alleged automaton endowed with the ability to play chess.

Built and first unveiled in 1770 by Johann Wolfgang von Kempelen, the mechanism seemed capable of playing against a human opponent,

This mechanism was only an illusion to hide the real depth of the furniture. This one had another secret compartment in which a human player could slip, and manipulate the dummy, like a puppeteer, without being seen. The automaton was then able to play a game of chess against a human opponent. (Source wikipedia)

5) And I didn’t say the youngest!

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Artificial intelligence: a myth updated

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