Translating Chinese AI: From ‘Man-Made Intelligence’ to ‘Black Tech’

Publikation: Bidrag til bog/antologi/rapport/proceedingBidrag til bog/antologiForskningpeer review


I approach the concept of AI as a cultural object, one that has been shaped by cross-cultural exchange and has, over time, consequently been imbued with layers of meaning. Here I follow the work of Lydia Liu who, in her seminal book, Translingual Practice, showed that when modern western concepts were first translated into Chinese, they were re-invented within the local social and cultural context of China. “Translation” is not simply the act of mapping an idea from the dictionary of one language onto an equivalent concept in the dictionary of another; rather, it is a creative process in which cultural objects are transmitted, received, and remade anew within different contexts. Therefore, instead of attempting to compare and contrast ideal types of Chinese and Western conceptions of AI (comparisons which too often overemphasize differences and create polarizing categorizations), I choose to view AI through the lens of cultural exchange, examining how the concept has been “co-authored” through time.
The concept of AI was born at an inflection point in Chinese history, a period that was being shaped by the rising forces of liberalization and globalization, but was still very much rooted in the immediate past. The founders of the field of Chinese AI were scholars who brought their experience of living under three decades of socialism to bear on their theories of AI and its role in human history. With the popular reconceptualization of AI as a “black technology” we will explore how cultural forces, from anime to corporate advertisements, are reshaping popular imaginaries of AI and giving it new sets of meanings. While this exploration is by no means comprehensive, by zooming in on these two particular moments in time, I hope to show how the cultural object of Chinese AI has a unique history, one that has been made, and is still being remade, through cultural interactions.
TitelArtificial Intelligence in China
StatusAccepteret/In press - 2022


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