The necessity of dissidence in the face of artificial intelligence

A talk by the French philosopher Éric Sadin at the Athenaeum of Barcelona with the collaboration of DIPLOCAT

The auditorium at the Athenaeum of Barcelona was filled yesterday afternoon with an audience who had assembled to listen to the words of philosopher and technocritic Éric Sadin, one of the most vocal European voices to warn of the dangers of a society subjected to machines and algorithms. The talk was part of the "More intelligent, more human?" conference series organised by the Athenaeum of Barcelona with the collaboration of DIPLOCAT, among other entities.

Sadin began by making it clear that for decades, our society has been moving forward on the basis of two fixed goals: to put people (he uses the word "bodies") in the right place at the right time so that they can, firstly, continuously increase and optimise production, and secondly, carry out economic transactions. These two goals are at the core of today's technological and neoliberal societies.

After providing a historical review of the great advances of modern times (reference to the Charles Chaplin film included), from the steam engine and electricity to calculators and computers, Sadin focused on the present, which he classified in grave terms. We are reaching unprecedented levels of determinism, with machines that talk to us, simulate listening to us, and possess a high degree of coercive control over us. According to Sadin, who doesn't deny the advantages offered by the numerical industry and algorithms, the problem is the loss of control over our lives that they imply.

The French philosopher explained that for years, the powers-that-be have been dealing with society in a programmed way and that there is an institutionalised will to analyse the behaviour of the individuals within it so that they can be controlled and directed. All the machines do is make this task increasingly easier to achieve. But the arrival of artificial intelligence makes the situation even worse because it will eventually dictate all our day-to-day actions and supplant people's ability to act rationally and make decisions. Given this fact, Sadin believes that dissidence is not only a right, but a necessity.