Mary Shelley foresaw that artificial intelligence would be made monstrous, not by human hubris but by human cruelty

Eileen Hunt Botting in Aeon:

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s 200-year-old creature is more alive than ever. In his new role as the bogeyman of artificial intelligence (AI), ‘the monster’ made by Victor Frankenstein is all over the internet. The British literary critic Frances Wilson even called him ‘the world’s most rewarding metaphor’. Though issued with some irony, this title suited the creature just fine.

From the editors of The Guardian to the engineers at Google have come stiff warnings about AI: it’s a monster in the closet. Hidden in computer consoles and in the shadows of the world wide web, from Moscow to Palo Alto, AI is growing stronger, faster, smarter and more dangerous than its clever programmers. Worse than the bioengineered and radiated creatures of Cold War B-movies, AI is the Frankenstein’s creature for our century. It will eventually emerge – like a ghost from its machine – to destroy its makers and the whole of humanity.

Thematically, not much has changed since 1818, when the 20-year-old Shelley’s first novel went to print. As with Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, apocalyptic media concerning AI relies for its big scare on the domestic conventions of gothic literature. The robots will rise up to destroy the world and your precious privacy at home. Cue Alexa, the Amazonian robot who knows every matter of your personal taste.

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