AI as Ideology: A Marxist Reading (Crawford, Marx/Engels, Debord, Althusser)

Abstract

Kate Crawford presents AI as “both reflecting and producing social relations and understandings of the world”; or again, as “a form of exercising power, and a way of seeing… as a manifestation of highly organized capital backed by vast systems of extraction and logistics, with supply chains that wrap around the entire planet”. I interpret these material insights through a Marxist understanding of ideology, with reference to Marx/Engels, Guy Debord and Louis Althusser. In the German Ideology, Marx and Engels present ideology as the alienated and alienating discourse of exchange, dissimulating the material forces of production and its science. Guy Debord presents the spectacle as the further representation of capital. The spectacle is a total Weltanschauung, pure appearance, where “whatever appears is good and where what is good, appears.” Above all, the spectacle is ideology, representing “the impoverishment, enslavement and negation of real life”. Louis Althusser presents ideology as essential for the reproduction of labor-power and capital. His notion of “interpellation” explains the subjective uptake of ideology, how we respond, “yes!” to its call. The algorithms of AI are enactments of surplus value generating capital as data. The AI data-world is the spectacle, “the autonomous movement of non-life” (Debord) where the proletariat/consumer is the producer of their own ideological subjection. Is resistance possible? What form might it take? And if AI is understood as ideology, i.e. as a language that obscures the true conditions of real life, then what are those true conditions? What is “real life”?

Author's Profile

Jeffrey Reid
University of Ottawa

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