Reflections on Suchman and AI
The extract we read for this week (from Suchmans Human-Machine
reconfigurations: Plans and situated actions) gave a lot to unpack.
I found a lot of it to be both interesting and relevant,
but I will only touch on some of the questions here.
I find the discussions about agency and personhood and identity engaging
and it was really interesting to read about it in the perspective of AI
and robotics. Suchmans discussion of how we model the artificial
after our selves and through some kind of mimesis, a process in which the
assumptions we make about our selves we define what it means to be human.
This reveals several interesting and problematic areas. Areas which
illuminates both individual as well as collective issues, more or less
directly connected to the same idea which then leads to several important
and well discussed questions. How can we brake free from our own
subjective self-centered world view, assumptions and prejudices? Or how
do we (since it may turn out to be quite hard to do) at least learn how
to understand this perspective, clearly see it for what it is and work
around and with it? Also, how can we identify what the general
assumptions and tendencies are, who are dictating these definitions and
what are the effects and how do we challenge them? These are and have of
course been discussed by the author, and by so many other authors,
scholars, artists and so on. But I do think that the framing in this
text, the strive towards human like machines, engage in these questions
in a way that feedback well into thinking more generally about power
structures, the importance of who is defining language, concepts,
culture, symbols, relations, meanings and value(s) etc.
Suchman discuss and quotes several really interesting ways of thinking
about personhood. In this there is also the notion of cognition and of
agency and the relationship between them. If it is useful to build an
understanding of of personhood on given agency contrasted with relational
agency. I do find these ideas and discussions very interesting and some
times confusing. But they are always relevant since it is impacting not
only the individual and collective mental space and understanding of the
world but also the following effects, actions and ways of being and
becoming that follows.
The text gives us several useful ways of thinking about this, about how
the connections between concepts like person, human and agent are made,
as well as cognition, intelligence and body. As asked in the text, if
embodiment is not coincidental but fundamental to intelligence? or if
cognition is an emergent property of perception and action? What are the
relation between world/body/mind?
I find the discussions in the text about relationality of agency,
personhood very compelling. It gives us a much needed way to understand
and “give” agency and personhood etc beyond the human. It may let (or at
least help) us escape the use of terms such as animate/inanimate and
material/immaterial, corporeal/incorporeal and so on that are not always
getting us where we want or perhaps need to be. It binds these terms
together as well as adding a social context and understanding of our
selves and the world outside of us, connecting as well as necessarily
separating but yet entangling and interweave. Distinctions between terms
and concepts like these may very well serve its purposes and facilitate
our ways of thinking and discussing, and they may be necessary to
understand causality, origin, essence, relations and more. But maybe, in
order to address certain problems and create new ways of thinking we need
to approach them in new ways. Not because it is true per se, but because
it is useful.
Maybe this is also a place where it is necessary to hold several different
thoughts, concepts and truths at the same time to, perhaps in a pragmatic
way out of usefulness or practical consequences. Or perhaps to be able to
cover the whole of one or several spectra? Not because of some extended
notion of subjective realities or relativity for the sake of it, but maybe
more in a way that some things can be true in more than one way in
parallel, or that some things can be true in different situations or under
different conditions. This was not what I intended to write. But any ways.
Interesting article and topics, even though there where many many more to address.
-Suchman, Lucy. Human-machine reconfigurations: Plans and situated
actions. Cambridge University Press, 2007
//Jakob Jennerholm Hammar | 10/22/19