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Histories of Artificial Intelligence: A Genealogy of Power


​Histories of AI: A Model Syllabus

v.1 by Jonnie Penn, Rebecca Charbonneau, Jenny Carla Moran

Histories of AI (click here) is a template graduate-level course ready for your adaptation and comment. It is designed to equip students with the conceptual tools needed to situate and critique artificial intelligence (AI) and AI ethics in relation to historical trends dating back to the sixteenth century. Students assess the materials, methods, power, and rhetoric behind evolving claims of manufactured cognition.

Structure: 3 sets of 5 ‘modules.’ Each module could be taught as a class, seminar, or workshop. Reading lists run long to allow for your customisation.

Part A - On Knowledge and Entitlements relates textbook AI histories to the deep genealogies of statistical and information technologies. To understand the imbrications of one powerful form of knowledge production (AI), students learn to critique the complexities of another (history). They contrast Western faith in political modernity to the commitments of older non-Western knowledge systems.

Part B - Logics of Power surveys AI’s conceptual roots in colonialism, scientific management, policing, state surveillance, disability studies, and bureaucratic administration to capture how, in the words of Patricia Hill Collins, ‘oppressions work together in producing injustice’ (Hill Collins 2001, p. 18).

Part C - Case Studies offers historical perspectives on the Amazon Echo, (b) Medical Carebots, and (c) Synthetic Text Generation and Search. Students consider various theoretical approaches, manifestos, and practical frameworks that inform how one might interrupt and/or reform AI and surrounding sciences.

Course Themes: materiality of AI and algorithmic cultures; racial capitalism; disingenuous rhetoric; cognitive injustice; encoded behaviour.

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