From the AI Imaginary to Artificial Communication in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

The AI imaginary as unfolded over half a century of posthuman machine beings foregrounds how scientific modernity has entangled the matter of intelligence with the mediation of technology. AI exhibits this condition explicitly as engineered intelligence instantiated in machines.

Classical versions of the AI imaginary typically bring artificial intelligence forward as higher intelligence, beyond organic contingencies, cosmic rather than terrestrial. In the thrust and escape velocity of such cosmological narratives, the AI imaginary beams outward and away from Earth along expansionist and monolithic lines of evolutionary progressions toward cosmic heights ever receding from its human origins.

However, Kim Stanley Robinson 2015 novel Aurora is a magnificent exception to the traits of the AI imaginary as I have just enumerated them. What makes the difference? For one, ecological realism regarding the human contingencies of technological systems, and for another, posthumanist realism regarding the systemic contingencies of communication systems. Aurora’s AI narrator must construct a sense of self to produce its narrative utterance. In this capacity, it participates in a history of sociality specific to the ship and its human residents.

This AI narrator produces an artificial communication for an absent or unknown recipient, creates artificial meaning consistent with its machine selfhood, and processes the meaning of its social affirmation through attachment to a solidarity that regathers rather than alienates human and machine beings.

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Cecilie Klingenberg