AI, future imaginaries, and futures studies
Most public debates about AI are based on the following premise: AI will play an essential role in the future. Even harsh critics usually formulate their criticisms unconsciously with the assumption that AI is - exaggeratedly formulated - inevitable. Thus, AI passes the test for Future Imaginaries described in this paper: A future in which AI does not play a role is not imaginable without enormous internal and external resistance.
Among the few currently questioning the advance of AI are, of all people, AI researchers themselves, who point to significant obstacles in advancing machine and deep learning technologies, highlighting the massive gap between the Future Imaginaries of AI and the technical reality of AI.1
The example of AI shows the potential for critical futures research to contribute to the public debate by mirroring the unconscious imaginaries of the future in society and making visible the competition between Future Imaginaries for interpretive sovereignty over the future.
For example, it would enrich the discussion about AI in Germany if futures research could no longer just be harnessed to develop yet more interest-driven future imaginaries about AI. Instead, it could identify and explain the existing myths and metaphors and the Future Imaginaries of AI behind them. This would make explicit which ideas and interests are currently receiving the most attention and allow this constellation to be interrogated.
cf. Simonite, T. (2019, December 13). A Sobering Message About the Future at AI’s Biggest Party. Wired. https://www.wired.com/story/sobering-message-future-ai-party/. Accessed 2 January 2020 ↩