Guest post - "Aristotle and Fake News: Why understanding rhetoric illuminates credible arguments"

By Carolyn Haythorn
It’s hard for me to remember the time before the internet became such a pervasive part of daily life. I work online to earn money, watch Netflix to relax, scroll YouTube for advice on anything from personal finance to cooking, and read push notifications from my favorite news outlets to keep up-to-date. I’m part of the generation in which proper computer use was taught in school. Our digital literacy began with typing classes in grade school, then turned to learning about the dangers of Wikipedia in high school, and, by the time I was in college, people used the internet to write class papers more often than physical books in the library. 

But one area where I think our digital education was lacking is in determining how to spot a ‘credible’ source. 

"Governed by darkness," a poem about fear

It overwhelms me. It is everything.

Waking up, walking outside, working in this world,

waiting for time to pass,

Artificial intelligence re-defines reality and the self

Isaiah, you so silly.
Is this strong AI? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a human mind. No escape from reality.
When the Cold War brought the world's attention to revolutions in scientific research, artificial intelligence would shake our understanding of what separates a human from the rest of the world. Scientists and philosophers would draw from theories of mind and question the epistemic limits of what we can know about ourselves. Neurophysiologist and founder of machine learning Warren McCulloch described his cybernetic idealism in his 1965 book Embodiments of MindThis postwar scientific movement he founded with mathematician Norbert Wiener and anthropologist Gregory Bateson was a mix of science and culture at the time. Cybernetics, based on the Greek word kybernētikḗ, meaning "governance," was a collaboration between ideas from machine design, physiology, and philosophical ambition. Since its 1948 inception, it would create the language of science and technology we take for granted today. The advances in artificial intelligence brought upon by cybernetic idealism would continue to define how scientists and philosophers understand the world. 

The beauty of logic throughout history

Kurt Gödel
As I peruse through biographies of the lives of philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, and other researchers, I find myself fascinated. I wonder how their hometowns, education backgrounds, and people they've met throughout their lives influenced their success in their work. In investigating what it means to be a genius and what it takes to produce amazing work, I still wonder about how people interacted with scientist Albert Einstein, mathematician Bertrand Russell, logician Kurt Gödel, and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and what they thought of their greatness. With the distance and objectivity I have as I read about these famous minds of history, I appreciate the way history becomes more of a gradient of many events that give rise to settings, culture, and ideas themselves.

Creating a greater story of artificial intelligence

A History of Artificial Intelligence
With my new site A History of Artificial IntelligenceI share a story with over sixty events from the present day dating back to ancient civilizations. The way humans have created artificial intelligence such as self-driving cars and algorithms that recommend books to read has a lot of history behind it. Spanning literature, art, poetry, philosophy, computer science, logic, mathematics, ethics, mythology, and other fields, I create this grand narrative of AI. I hope that, as news unfolds about the concerns and social issues raised by AI technology, we can make informed, educated opinions on them by keeping the past alive. Studying artificial intelligence, robots, automata, androids, and other parts of our culture as they relate to stories and inventions from hundreds of years ago, we can ask the same questions that plagued the ancient Greeks and Romans: What makes us human? How can we ascribe humane qualities to nature? In what way can a computer "think"? These inquiries should take center stage in debates about the future of artificial intelligence as well as the policy and ethical recommendations that guide our decisions.

"Frankenstein" and tampering with nature

From the 1831 revised edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, published by Colburn and Bentley, London.

Frankenstein by English novelist Mary Shelley: with philosophy, literature, science, and history, Shelley speculated how humans would attempt to use scientific progress to tamper with nature as far back as 1818. Frankenstein and his rejected monster remain central to debates about fetal tissue research, life extension, human cloning, and artificial intelligence. In the story, Victor Frankenstein builds an artificial, intelligent android from slaughterhouse and medical dissection materials. Like other Romantic pieces of English literature, Shelley confronted nature as man addressing the issues of science and the Enlightenment ideal of how to use power responsibly. But how did a novel from over two centuries ago become a central piece in contemporary bioethics discussions? Through a history overview, we understand the real monster - ourselves.