The TESCREAL bundle: Eugenics and the promise of utopia through artificial general intelligence

Authors

  • Timnit Gebru
  • Émile P. Torres

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v29i4.13636

Abstract

The stated goal of many organizations in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) is to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI), an imagined system with more intelligence than anything we have ever seen. Without seriously questioning whether such a system can and should be built, researchers are working to create “safe AGI” that is “beneficial for all of humanity.” We argue that, unlike systems with specific applications which can be evaluated following standard engineering principles, undefined systems like “AGI” cannot be appropriately tested for safety. Why, then, is building AGI often framed as an unquestioned goal in the field of AI? In this paper, we argue that the normative framework that motivates much of this goal is rooted in the Anglo-American eugenics tradition of the twentieth century. As a result, many of the very same discriminatory attitudes that animated eugenicists in the past (e.g., racism, xenophobia, classism, ableism, and sexism) remain widespread within the movement to build AGI, resulting in systems that harm marginalized groups and centralize power, while using the language of “safety” and “benefiting humanity” to evade accountability. We conclude by urging researchers to work on defined tasks for which we can develop safety protocols, rather than attempting to build a presumably all-knowing system such as AGI.

Downloads

Published

2024-04-14

How to Cite

Gebru, T., & Torres, Émile P. (2024). The TESCREAL bundle: Eugenics and the promise of utopia through artificial general intelligence. First Monday, 29(4). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v29i4.13636