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Artificial intelligence in fiction: between narratives and metaphors

Hermann, Isabella

Science-fiction (SF) has become a reference point in the discourse on the ethics and risks surrounding artificial intelligence (AI). Thus, AI in SF—science-fictional AI—is considered part of a larger corpus of ‘AI narratives’ that are analysed as shaping the fears and hopes of the technology. SF, however, is not a foresight or technology assessment, but tells dramas for a human audience. To make the drama work, AI is often portrayed as human-like or autonomous, regardless of the actual technological limitations. Taking science-fictional AI too literally, and even applying it to science communication, paints a distorted image of the technology's current potential and distracts from the real-world implications and risks of AI. These risks are not about humanoid robots or conscious machines, but about the scoring, nudging, discrimination, exploitation, and surveillance of humans by AI technologies through governments and corporations. AI in SF, on the other hand, is a trope as part of a genre-specific mega-text that is better understood as a dramatic means and metaphor to reflect on the human condition and socio-political issues beyond technology.
Published in: AI & Society, 10.1007/s00146-021-01299-6, Springer Nature