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Political Theory of the Digital Age: Where Artificial Intelligence Might Take Us, Mathias Risse

Reviewed by Markus Furendal
 

As the artificial intelligence (AI) hype engulfs society, Mathias Risse’s new monograph, Political Theory of the Digital Age, offers a comprehensive and clear-eyed examination of the impact of technology on politics and political philosophy. His basic conviction, which seems more reasonable every time a new AI application is presented, is that “[a]ny political philosophy that speaks to the political problems of this century must also be a philosophy of technology” (27). Risse’s book demonstrates what this means in practice and covers issues such as what AI and other technologies mean for democracy, human rights, and the meaning of life.

Political philosophers who take Risse’s conviction seriously face the challenge, however, of how to conceptualize technologies such as AI. In one sense, AI is a field in mathematics that helps us make sense of the world. In another sense, it is a general-purpose technology that unlocks a number of new and powerful tools, including methods for shaping public opinion, much like television or the internet did before it. Finally, AI systems may possibly reach a kind of “subject-hood,” and perhaps be entitled to moral and political rights (unless, of course, they instead enslave humans and get rid of politics). What should a political theory of AI be like, given this breadth of what

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