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AI and the threat of technocracy

The initial period of artificial intelligence in the 1950s and early 1960s was characterized by expectations that were highly exaggerated. 

That goes not only for specific applications, such as machine translation of languages. Many believed then – as also today – that computers’ achievement of human-like or even superhuman intelligence was just a matter of time, or even “just around the corner.” 

I would argue that expectations of human-like AI have little to do with the actual possibilities and limitations of artificial intelligence per se. Rather, they reflect the impact of a radical philosophical movement originating in the 1920s, known as logical positivism. 

Professional logical positivists are hard to find today. Nevertheless, one can easily detect the influence of logical positivism in practically every area of intellectual endeavor. It helps explain why so many people today find nothing bizarre about the idea that digital computers could replicate the human mind.

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