The psychoanalysis of artificial intelligence

Millar, Isabel (2020) The psychoanalysis of artificial intelligence. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Aiming to simulate and even surpass human intelligence, AI and the creation of the artificial brain, which promises to separate neuroscience from biology and thought from the body provokes an urgent engagement with the psychoanalytic subject. The Psychoanalysis of Artificial Intelligence considers psychoanalysis as crucial in our understanding of what AI means for us as speaking, sexed subjects. It speculates how our philosophical and critical thinking about AI has neglected an essential concept; enjoyment. In order to address this lacuna, the thesis argues a conceptual shift from the object a to the lathouse is needed. The lathouse may be conceived as the synthetic object created via the effects of technoscience in the real; not quite being and not quite the other. Whilst undertheorized in Lacan’s work, the lathouse underscores the primacy of the material and structural effects of AI on the sexed being. Through an examination of the concept of intelligence, the artificial object and the abyss of sex, the thesis conjures a conceptual figure who exists on the boundary of psychoanalysis and AI, straddling our fantasy worlds and our speculations about the possibilities for life alongside or through Artificial Intelligence. This is the Sexbot. With its help I subvert Kant’s three classic enlightenment questions, What can I know, What should I do and What may I hope for? The anti-philosophical approach to the three Kantian questions will form the framework to explore the series of epistemological, ontological and technological problems of AI as exterior, interior and extimate to the human subject. The metonymic iterations of the Sexbot will be viewed in terms of sex and knowledge, sex and ethics and sex and hope. I ask; how does enjoyment problematize the relationship between being and thinking? What kind of ethics can be thought in relation to the undead body of AI? What would sexual reproduction mean in the age of AI replication? I examine three films, which depict various aspects of the Sexbot; Ex Machina (knowledge); Ghost in the Shell (ethics); Blade Runner 2049 (hope). Via these cinematic examples, I analyse human-A.I relationships and the forms of enjoyment which they exemplify through the lens of the Lacanian non-existent sexual relation, positing sexuality as the irreducible ontological-techno-scientific problem that underlies the entrance of AI into the social bond. Ultimately, I shift the approach to AI from a concern with ‘can it think?’ to ‘does it enjoy?’ The thesis concludes with a reflection on the fourth Kantian question ‘what is man?’ - a question which will ultimately belong to the psychoanalysis of artificial intelligence.

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