Introduction and Research Question
The technological world has made enormous strides in over the past few decades. Computers have transformed from simple, bulky machines that did limited calculations to devices that help streamline every sector of the society. Technology enthusiasts have championed for a future where these devices, having attained Artificial Intelligence (AI), will achieve human-like cognition and potentially replace humans. The argument of whether computers can gain human intelligence, with mental states, consciousness and mind form the basis of AI philosophy. Could machines achieve the organic intelligence humans possess? If so, what effects would this achievement have on the society? To answer these questions, this proposal explores the sociological perspectives of Artificial Intelligence, and how these theories can influence the progress of cognitive thinking in machines.
Theories and Sociological Concepts
Sociological theories guide how we understand relationships, social behavior and the society. Symbolic interactionism theory builds on the symbolic meanings that individuals form through social interactions. Thus, an individual’s definition of the situation (interpretation) forms social bonds (P. 27). For this topic, symbolic interaction plays a significant role since today’s computers are already learning via algorithms that interpret information fed by individuals. Thus, if computers ever achieve organic intelligence, they shall perceive societal constructs using this data. The conflict theory posits that domination maintains social order, with the elite wielding the most power (P. 23). AI enthusiasts believe that robots could take over all human processes, thereby gaining more power and social status. This may create a conflict between the two sides.
The theory of structural functionalism views the society as a complex system with components whose interaction brings about stability and solidarity. The society thus evolves as social structures shape the society. This theory assumes that norms, customs and institutions are the elements that constitute the society (P. 21). Actors in a society face 5 situations: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion. Conformity means the individual is capable and desires cultural norms. When an individual attains cultural norms but uses unorthodox techniques, they get innovative. Retreatism and rebellion signify dissatisfaction with norms. Machines that gain artificial intelligence need to conform to these structures to be considered organic.
To tackle the research problem, this project shall utilize a combination of quantitative, scientific and ethnographic methods. By quantitatively analyzing data from existing texts, surveys and interviews in giant technological companies, we will gauge the progress of artificial intelligence so far (P.41). Various companies have incorporated machine learning algorithms that form the basis of artificial intelligence. Finding patterns in these companies will help discover technical insights into the field of AI. We shall then use ethnography and participant observation to observe current trends in societal norms and structures (P.44). Finally, the project utilizes the scientific method to combine theoretical approaches and the empirical findings to answer the research questions.
Conclusion and Hypothesis
While enthusiasts envision a future where machines take up most societal roles, this is far from likely. Intelligent machines use algorithms to perform calculations. Experts suggest that when these algorithms advance enough, they could replicate human cognition. The problem, however, is that the human brain works differently. No one can sufficiently describe the working of the human brain. Human cells are also capable of replication, which algorithms are incapable of. Human beings also shape their identities, thoughts and processes in line with interactions and social expectations, a feat unachievable through algorithms. Thus, even with sufficient advancement in machine intelligence, computers will not be capable of replacing human beings for the predictable near future.