Artificial intelligence in ancient Rome: classical Roman philosophy on legal subjectivity

Date

2023-08-21

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Women philosophers on economics, technology, environment, and gender history shaping the future, rethinking the past

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De Gruyter

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157 - 168

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English

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Abstract

Conceiving of technology in its relation to modern society in terms of power imbalances dates back to antiquity. Particularly the understanding that there are 'instruments' of 'instruments' has its roots in the Aristotelian conception of slavery as a morally unacceptable institution both historically and today. In antiquity, slaves were seen as tools in symbioses: The prosthetic extensions of others, simultaneously persons and things. When we conceive of digital technology as a communicative artefact that is an extension of technological reason we face the same dilemma today. This paper seeks to draw historical connections between cybernetics and slavery around the general question: will AI technology result in a new type of slavery? As such this requires us to rethink the intricate concepts of humanness, subjectivity and sovereignty in Roman philosophy in order to apply them to the contempaorary ethical questions on artificial agents and digitization of technology.

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Book Title

Women philosophers on economics, technology, environment, and gender history shaping the future, rethinking the past

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