ABSTRACT

Transhumanism that is centered on artificial intelligence shares core features with large-scale data collection and surveillance that commercial and governmental entities pursue: the idea that knowledge is informational in nature, that technologies are value neutral, and that ethical challenges can be framed in technical-procedural terms. In this article, I am mainly concerned with the latter, society-wide, manifestations of these features. Here, criticisms leading to technical-procedural changes in data practices are of limited use because they foster an illusion of foundational headway while leaving questionable assumptions about knowledge and values intact. Because what is closest is hardest to glean, we may more readily discern these assumptions if we see them operating in a milieu that is at once quite different and strikingly familiar. Ancient rhetoric manifests versions of our three factors. Plato's critique of rhetoric, along with aspects of his philosophical methodology, helps us see why we should contest increasingly prevalent views of knowledge and values—and do so before other constructions become unfathomable.

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