Power in Political Philosophy: Nature and Justification
As is now increasingly commonly recognized, the field of ‘AI Ethics’ has tended to focus on the harms and benefits of AI systems for individuals, without adequately attending to the ways in which AI is used to exercise power, and the power relations from which AI research, development and deployment emerge. Indeed, the very credibility of AI Ethics as a practice has been questioned, as scholars argue that it has been coopted by powerful companies, interested in tinkering at the margins, but not in questioning the enormous market and political power that AI both enables and expresses. However, this increased attention on the role of power in AI, and the role of AI in power, has not yet led to theoretical reflection on just what we mean by power here. This means that scholars risk talking past one another, and the normative appeal to power risks reduction to sloganeering. We are also missing an opportunity for a fruitful interdisciplinary discussion on the nature and justification of power in the age of AI. This tutorial aims to introduce its audience to the approach to power taken in analytical political philosophy. Attendees will learn about how political philosophers understand the nature and justification of power, and be able to apply those concepts to analyzing the role of power in AI, and the role of AI in power. The tutorial will also gesture at alternative approaches to power taken in other fields, recognizing the limitations as well as the promise of the political philosophy approach.