cover image The AI Mirror: How to Reclaim Our Humanity in an Age of Machine Thinking

The AI Mirror: How to Reclaim Our Humanity in an Age of Machine Thinking

Shannon Vallor. Oxford Univ, $29.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-19-775906-6

The threat artificial intelligence poses to society paradoxically derives from the dangerous human values it has internalized, according to this mind-bending treatise. Philosopher Vallor (Technology and the Virtues) characterizes AI as a “mirror” that reflects existing social beliefs, values, and attitudes and uses them to replicate the unseen patterns that have produced a world “rife with racism, poverty, inequality, discrimination, [and] climate catastrophe.” As a result, Vallor writes, AI technology functions as “tractor beams pulling us deeper into a dead-end past.” On the other hand, if humans work to cultivate in their communities and institutions such virtues as imagination, compassion, courage, and wisdom—and reform economic incentives to prioritize long-term sustainability and global health over short-term profit—AI could help to build a more just society and world. Specifically, Vallor points to how the technology might aid in formulating and implementing new modes of energy production, transportation, and agriculture to meet “the demands of a climate-stressed planet.” Her rigorous analysis is fueled by a sense of alarm that never descends into fatalism, and she makes a convincing argument for “repairing and rebuilding the world” on a human scale as a prerequisite “for a sustainable future.” It’s a fresh and fascinating take on the perils and promises of a much-debated technology. (June)