This week our guest is philosopher and psychoanalytic theorist, Isabel Millar, who recently released her book, The Psychoanalysis of Artificial Intelligence, in which she explores the much neglected role of enjoyment and psychoanalysis in AI. Throughout the book, she uses the sexbot as a focal point of discussion, which allows her to emphasize the role of gender, sex, and a body as it relates to deeper questions about AI & humanity.
In this conversation we explore the notions of Isabel’s book, first by establishing an understanding of psychoanalysis, then by going through themes such as the importance of a body, the role of the female AI in film and the cultural and philosophical importance of film, the dominance of men in the creation of AI, and ultimately what AI can teach us about ourselves.
Find out more about Isabel at isabelmillar.com and purchase her book through Springer or Amazon
Host: Steven Parton - LinkedIn / Twitter
Music by: Amine el Filali
Isabel Millar [00:00:00] I think that, yes, technology exposes all the terrible things about us and also all the amazing things about us as well. But it's important to always be critical and always to be looking at the other side of things and the unsaid things and the hidden things, which is what psychoanalysis is so great doing, is unearthing all the terrible, scary things about humans, about culture, but also about ourselves.
Steven Parton [00:00:36] Hello, everyone. My name is Steven Parton and you're listening to the feedback loop on Singularity Radio. This week, our guest is philosopher and psychoanalytical theorist Isabel Millar, who recently released her book The Psychoanalysis of Artificial Intelligence, in which she explores the much neglected role of enjoyment and psychoanalysis in the field of A.I. throughout the book. Isabel uses the sexpot as a vocal point of discussion, which allows her to emphasize the role of gender, sex and a body as it relates to the deeper questions that AI is revealing to us about humanity. In this conversation, we explore these notions of Isabel's book first by establishing an understanding of psychoanalysis, and then we go through themes such as the importance of the body, the role of the female artificial intelligence in film, and the cultural and philosophical importance of film, the dominance of men and the creation of AI. And ultimately, what I can teach us about ourselves. For fans of philosophy and psychoanalysis, I can't recommend this episode enough, as Isabel is obviously well versed on the subject. And for those of you who might be less familiar with these subjects, perhaps this conversation will spark your interest. So without further ado, everyone, please welcome to the feedback loop. Isabel Miller. Well, let's jump into the psychoanalysis of Artificial Elements, which is the name of the book that you released in 2021. What was the motivation that made you want to write this book?
Isabel Millar [00:02:13] My initial background is philosophy and psychoanalysis, and so, you know, I was already in the field of thinking about human subjectivity and why, what motivates our actions and the question of self being and thinking and enjoyment. And all of these concepts, tricky concepts that come about through the study of psychoanalysis and philosophy together. And so when I first started my doctoral project, which this book was a product of, I first was interested in artificial intelligence because it seemed to me to be a field where there were so many sort of psychoanalytic and philosophical faux pas going on, as it were, that were just ripe for examination. And and whilst I'd seen lots of kinds of partial treatments of things, like, for example, as you brought up the use of the female voice or our obsession with certain forms of feminized technologies, this wasn't exactly my entry point. Mine was a sort of a little bit more, I suppose, structural in a sense that I was interested in the relationship between psychoanalysis and artificial intelligence as two fields which intersect or have an excellent relationship to each other. Eczema is a term in psychoanalysis that means both inside and outside, but also eczema. It refers to the way that in psychoanalysis we think about the question of the unconscious, that the unconscious is something which is both inside but more fundamentally outside, because it's structured by the language and the symbolic structures around us, the laws, the the the, the traditions, the history that make us act in certain ways. So. There is a huge amount of theoretical baggage to go into before I would begin to explain how the question started. I mean, I won't give you all the sort of philosophical backdrop because I don't know whether that's necessarily what you're interested in. But what I will say is that. I first started asking the question about why artificial intelligence has not been properly theorized by philosophy. And then I started to realize that the philosophers who had looked into to artificial intelligence were often not engaging with their position as psychoanalytic subjects within this field. So on the one hand, it's a sort of. A disciplinary and methodological project that interrogates how to ask these questions. And on the other hand, it's a genuine kind of speculative foray into looking at the ways that our fantasies about artificial intelligence historically have grown into real, actual technology that exists, and how the relationship between fantasy and reality is part and parcel of artificial intelligence.
Steven Parton [00:05:40] And what are some of those faux pas that you saw happening in the artificial intelligence space that psychoanalytic psychoanalysis addresses? And to that point, could you just briefly kind of explain what maybe what psychoanalysis is as well, just for people who might not be fully familiar with the term?
Isabel Millar [00:06:01] Yeah. So you just the second thing you said was like the longest question, right? How how long have you got to explain what psychoanalysis is? And so first of all, yeah, that that probably take us the whole hour. So in terms of the question of how, you know, philosophy or philosophy is a very, very broad term, I'm using it in inverted commas because, you know, within philosophy you have very many different approaches. But in terms of the way that popular philosophy has often engaged with the field of AI, it takes for granted lots of questions about what artificial intelligence actually means and. You know, the fact that we have this idea of intelligence as if it's this gestalt of a human subject that is a fully formed, intelligent being that can then be replicated and add and into. And then we have various different versions of this so-called human intelligence. So the first thing that I was interested in doing is looking at the concept of intelligence itself, never mind the artificial part, and analyzing how that idea has developed over time. The history of the genealogy of the concept, where it comes from philosophically and looking into the different ways that today there are lots of slights of hand that go on when we talk about A.I. because, you know, obviously people wouldn't feel that. I know very well the distinctions between symbolic AI and neural networks and difference between trying to replicate a mind versus trying to replicate a brain. But for people outside of AI who who hear all the stories about what I was doing and just go, Oh, God, AI's coming. And it's going to be scary. And it's taking over, you know, people within I laugh because they think, Well, you don't really understand what we're talking about. And whilst you know that is true, that there's lots of sort of misapprehensions about what is actually happening in the field of A.I., it doesn't mean that actually in the field of AI people win. I also don't necessarily aren't that self-reflective on what they're talking about when it comes to this future of the singularity and these fantasy, fantastical ideas about the coming age of when, when, when they will come to get us and rip us from our beds. Because we've we've been terrible humans. You know, these kind of fancies also exist within artificial intelligence. So part of the book as well is to kind of like explain what's actually happening in artificial intelligence and why there are some theoretical clarifications necessary. But even on that score, you know, in terms of the conceptual basis for thinking about how intelligence relates to the question of knowledge and truth and the body, you know, this this is where it starts to become psychoanalytic because psychoanalysis invokes the body in a way that's for philosophy, is has it has a sort of strange relationship as well. So there's a sort of difficulty when it comes to thinking about how we position truth and knowledge in relation to the supposed idea of a progression of intelligence, of an intelligent being becoming more and more intelligent, because of course, within artificial intelligence, all that you really have is various different forms of intelligence that can be augmented and sort of accelerated, but you don't have a whole scale replication of a human mind. So this kind of fantasy is one that obviously resides within, oh, sort of science, sci fi images of, of, of artificial intelligence and one which is, has as its heart the kind of question of sexuality which properly comes into some comes into the psychoanalysis of A.I..
Steven Parton [00:09:53] Yeah. You you focus on the sex bot as kind of like a vehicle for exploring this conversation. And you were talking there about the importance of a body. So what what is the importance of a body for an AI? Was it mean for an AI to be embodied? And does that automatically bring us into that realm where sex becomes something very important that we need to talk about in terms of how that AI functions in the world?
Isabel Millar [00:10:17] Well, again, I think I have just returned to your previous second part of your question because I don't think I actually addressed it, which is really the the meat of the book, which is, you know, you said what is psychoanalysis? Well. Psychoanalysis is a very strange and misunderstood field, which on the one hand is a is a clinical practice, and on the other hand, it's a philosophical endeavor. And I attempt to theorize what the speaking subject is. So in a sense, it's a challenge to some aspects of philosophy, and that it uses the idea of the unconscious idea of language, the idea of bodily enjoyment to problematize the supposedly self-evident kinds of knowledge that we have. And most people will be familiar with the Freudian idea of the unconscious, the Freudian idea of various different psychic structures, of neurosis, of of of psychosis, of perversion, these kinds of ideas that Freud has as his basis for the whole beginning of psychoanalysis. And Lacan, who is the the thinker who I draw on predominantly in this book. This is a lacanian version of psychoanalysis I use was a French psychoanalyst who in the wake of Freud. Started his own school of psychoanalysis. And it is, you know, probably one of the most influential figures in intellectual history in the 20th century. His his work has influenced not just the field of psychoanalysis, but philosophy, critical theory, feminist theory, art, very political theory, you name it. People are still drawing on on on lacan's work. And, you know, he enacted this return to Freud, where he went back to Freud's work and and wanted to retrieve the radical and subversive kernel of what he saw as as Freud's contribution to the field of psychoanalysis. And, you know, because what he thought was happening is that Freud was becoming to was being interpreted in too much of a sort of a similar type of way. Is that in American ego psychology, for example, was taking Freud's insights and making them into sort of therapeutic kinds of psychology, izing ways of making human beings fit into society. Whereas what Freud had done was to intervene at the most rudimentary level of of human subjectivity, to ask questions about how do we form our idea of ourselves, what is sexuality, how to children negotiate the relationship between their parents, how did they negotiate entrance into language? How is the body made up of all of these different drives that that make us behave in certain ways? You know, and these ideas for Lacombe were so important that they had to be reexamined. And what he did to reexamine them was to use the science of his day like structure, anthropology, Levi Strauss, to structure an apology. So linguistics and of course, philosophy and literature and all the resources that he had to to really think about the Freudian edifice and interpret it in a very sort of. Groundbreaking way. So this question of the body is is fundamental for psychoanalysis. It's the body and language, all the things that we have to think about when we're talking about subjectivity. So, of course, you can see there are all these concepts that when you start to think about artificial intelligence from a psychoanalytic perspective, you realize that it's even more complicated than it. First is because, you know, how can you replicate this idea of a body? What is a body? You know? And so you can see that there's. It's a sort of error to already think that we can imagine replicate your versions of ourselves at this stage in all technological advancement.
Steven Parton [00:14:46] Yeah. Because once we embody the AI, we unlock all of those philosophical quandaries that you just pointed to. Right.
Isabel Millar [00:14:53] Which exactly.
Steven Parton [00:14:54] And one of those, I think that you've emphasized specifically is that of enjoyment. And I think you referred to it in the book as results. I believe.
Isabel Millar [00:15:03] Precise results.
Steven Parton [00:15:04] Here. What is it about that aspect of enjoyment that is really relevant to artificial intelligences or embodied AI?
Isabel Millar [00:15:15] Well, now again is a very kind of long winded question in the book, because doing science is a concept in psychoanalysis that has a sort of very long theoretical journey. It starts off with Freud with the idea of libido, but of course it takes various different conceptual terms, and Lacan ultimately thinks about results as what comes about via the incompleteness of knowledge, the inconsistency of knowledge, and the impossibility of forming a whole consistent idea of oneself via language. And that sounds like what the hell does that even mean? And that's because that's what it's designed to do, is to make you have to sort of unpack what something that seems so self-evident as enjoyment. We know what that is, but actually the most complicated and the most human and the most strange concept that we can imagine. In fact, the one fundamental thing that distinguishes humans from virtually everything else in the universe. So this this this question of enjoyment is one which goes through, as I say, various different twists and turns, and there are different ways that you can use it. But essentially what what Lacan ends up with is talking about the idea of two different forms of enjoyment, which don't take this the wrong way, because people think that this has something to do with men and women. And it's not really but they're called phallic and other or feminine enjoyment. And men and women can both use and employ and experience these forms of enjoyment. And there are many in vice and within the field about what that means. But essentially what it means is there is a certain form of positioning within language that you will be subject to, which means that you will experience a feminine or a masculine form of enjoyment. But again, this does not just apply to human experience. It applies to a sort of more abstract level in which we can imagine talking about enjoyment on a sort of societal or political level. So. The question of artificial intelligence is one which is also characterized by these forms of enjoyment. And they are the creation of artificial intelligence is also responding to. These kinds of impasses and these kinds of questions about what it is to be a human being. And essentially this this difference between masculinity and femininity. Here, crucially, for psychoanalysis, unlike most other ways of interpreting it, is not about two binaries. It's about two failed versions of subjectivity. So masculinity and femininity are both failed versions of trying to become a whole. And neither of them are. And that's because of language is inherently structurally incomplete. We can never express everything for language that we want to. And we are castrated by the symbolic which enacts this sort of violence upon this libidinal vortex that we all as as biological entities. So that's the simplest way that I can explain what response is. So it does a lot of work in the book. It does a lot of hard work in the book.
Steven Parton [00:18:56] Do you think it's possible to create an artificial intelligence that won't have to address these issues? Like what? What is the need to resolve these issues? I guess is my question, because couldn't we create an AI that is embodied that doesn't need to think about these, I guess these gendered aspects or some of these deeper philosophical things. Couldn't we program it maybe in such a way that it can be ignored?
Isabel Millar [00:19:28] Of course we can. And that's what people are doing. And it's not even it's not really it's not really the question of whether we can or we can't. It's more the question of what what what does it make us think about? About when we interrogate AI from this perspective because. You know, when we have these fantasies about artificially intelligent beings. What's happening is that we are. We're talking about ourselves most of the time. We're talking about things that we don't already understand about being human. And that's why it's very fascinating to to see how these fantasies reside in, for example, science fiction film and how you can. How you can kind of identify the different forms of of thinking that exist within fantasies about. And yes, we can create forms of AI and people are creating forms of AI that don't have these problems. But that's that's that's kind of the point, isn't it? Is that we seem to have a very rudimentary idea of what this strange thing of human thinking is. And it's right now still quite staggering that within the field of AI there is so little sort of theoretical engagement with questions such as how how is the concept of intelligence related to self-consciousness? And, you know, I would from my perspective, say that the the field of AI is mostly dominated by people from the of analytic philosophical tradition and not so much the continental philosophical tradition, which takes a very different view of this strange creatures, the human being. And, you know, in the analytic tradition, it's it's fits much easily, more easily in the positive mathematical sciences. And therefore is not really so much concerned with these annoying questions of, you know, like bodies and stuff, you know, what's the what's reproduction? Where did we come from? Who cares? You know, these kinds of questions, big questions that can't be answered, which is what? Psychoanalysis asks the question. They're impossible questions.
Steven Parton [00:21:44] Yeah. Do you think this is the result, perhaps, of what is very arguably a male dominated sphere? When I think of people who are really creating technology and or in talking about the most you know, obviously we think of Ray Kurzweil, who founded Singularity, we think of Elon Musk, we think of Bezos. And, you know, a lot of these a lot of very you know, it's a lot of masculine leadership that's driving the creation of technology and even for that matter, creating the film. You know, a lot of the writers and directors that create the movies like Her and Ex Machina, I believe, are all men as well. Is there something to that, that the cultural narrative around technology is being driven by what I guess would be, you know, the the phallic energy or maybe the masculine energy?
Isabel Millar [00:22:31] Absolutely. Yeah. And completely as well as in it. Most of the science is that that that that is the case. But particularly, I think is one that is very male dominated. And, you know, the whole idea of of the of the female recreating a female I, I found really fascinating because it's it's a way of immediately kind of dramatizing and staging this question of sexual difference and the sort of epistemological question of sexual difference, which is why I'm interested in the in the book. One of the films I examined is Ex Machina, because it's a dramatization of the Turing test, which I'm sure most people listening. This will know that the Turing test was the beginning of artificial intelligence and the fact that, you know, Alan Turing himself was a homosexual man who was chemically castrated because it was illegal at the time and he killed himself. And his one of the aspects of the Turing test that is often not talked about is the fact that it was, you know, one of the things that it had to do was to fool an interlocutor into thinking that you were a different gender by the use of language. So it was called The Imitation Game. And this idea superficially it seems to be about gender. And it was. But if you look at the film Ex Machina and you look at this relationship between the female sex robot or sexpot and the male interlocutor, Caleb, and he's sent to sort of find out whether she can pass the Turing test. And she does. And how does she? She does it by making him fall in love with her. And so through this kind of. Communication between these two entities one human, one non-human. Supposedly this Turing test is enacted. But through it, what we're actually witnessing is a sort of staging of masculinity and femininity. He's asking her questions. He wants knowledge from her. And she is doing everything that she can to to appease him and give him what he wants and do seduce him and embroil him in this sort of game of seduction. And so we can say, oh, well, this is you know, this is just a sort of antifeminist, you know, sexist portrayal of a sexy young robot. But actually, there's something much more interesting, interesting going on because she's actually sort of enacting this feminine Sreesanth is others response and he is stuck in the positions traditional masculine position of wanting this this obscure object of his desire, which she can't really get, he doesn't really understand. And she, on the other hand, we don't understand what she's she's thinking and what she's doing. And by the end of the film, she's escaped. And, you know, who knows what she'll do. But the fact is, you know, she supposedly is an AI, but. The roles are reversed by the end of the film because she's put him in the position of the captive robot. She's outside in the world. She's discovering he's becoming a human. So this kind of dramatization of of the sort of sexual games of sexual relation, I think is very interesting to to look at. And in the book, I go through various different films examining in different ways the ways that psychoanalysis has a very interesting role to play and understanding our relationship to artificial intelligence to how we don't really understand it. And and that is because of a sort of structural incompleteness about knowledge itself.
Steven Parton [00:26:22] Yeah. Is film where we're doing most of our philosophical thinking about these questions rather than in the tech, uh, you know, businesses and companies. Do you feel like that's kind of what's happening here?
Isabel Millar [00:26:35] Yes, completely. I mean, all the most interesting things I've seen about, you know, heard about, oh, coming from cinema, maybe I'm not looking at places, but I haven't read anything as interesting as some of the films, not the kind of concepts I've treated in and some of the films about. And you know, there's lots of obvious reasons for that because film is a a place where you can truly speculate on things that aren't currently possible. And the problem with the tech industry is that, you know, it's restricted by capitalism, is affected by the limitations put on the capacities of of, you know, how people who are trained to work in these industries are not necessarily trained to think critically, analyzes trying to think philosophically. So it's a kind of like very divided world, I think. And I think it's it would benefit from a lot more kind of interdisciplinary humanities and people working really on the question of what is the human in these places? Yeah.
Steven Parton [00:27:45] I'm not sure how much silicon deals with this subject, but I'm more of a fan of young. That's at least my knowledge that comes from. And I've always thought about what's taking place a lot right now in our film and, and our storytelling is, is what I would call like shadow projection, right? Where we've kind of repressed the parts of ourselves that we don't accept, that society doesn't talk about. Maybe that's something like sex and we project it into our stories and kind of put it out there in the world so that we can attack it and learn about it. And, you know, really what we're doing is we're trying to learn about ourselves by taking that part of ourselves that we don't accept and making it part of the world around us. I don't know. Is that something that you look at at all in your field of psychoanalysis? And is that something that you feel is happening with our stories and with our film is that we're trying to have that dialog with ourselves and that kind of external way?
Isabel Millar [00:28:42] Absolutely. I mean, that sort of psychoanalysis in and film series has a very long, rich history of, you know, really looking at the ways that film has this capacity to to ask questions about humanity, to ask philosophical questions, and to without being explicit, without being didactic, or without sort of trying to explain difficult concepts. Film has a way of showing the concept, you know, has a way of situating you in sort of positions that you would never be able to be in, not just dramatically or emotionally, but also, you know, logically, you know, there are ways to portray what it is to be a human body, how to move through space and time, how to accelerate, decelerate the process of growing and aging. And, you know, all of these things that film can do allow us to kind of experiment with with sci fi. And actually, you know, artificial intelligence is just as much a product of sci fi as it is of actual scientific development. In fact, you could say, well, it is sci fi. It only ever came from sci fi. If it wasn't for narrative and story and fantasy, we wouldn't have artificial intelligence at all. And that's actually where it where it did grow from, you know, all the different fantasies that people have had throughout the ages about the idea of the automaton or the idea of the the alien, you know, the idea of recreating a monster. These are all science fiction, these old fantasy.
Steven Parton [00:30:20] Yet. Do you think that kind of switching gears a little bit here, that has got me thinking as we do push forward with this technology, do you think our language is going to update you were talking about before? You know, I think you're basically appealing to the fact that words try to capture something that's ephemeral and abstract and put it in this little tiny box. And there's always going to be something lost. And I'm wondering if we have something like a AI or we have things like people changing genders in avatars in games or being on social media and being able to pretend to be a different gender sex. Do these kind of technological changes, you think? Update the psychoanalytical field? Is it update our understanding and maybe improve it by giving us new language to talk about these things?
Isabel Millar [00:31:11] Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, another part of the book important to say, is that actually it's not just sort of interrogating artificial intelligence and sort of slapping slapping its wrist. It's, you know, the opposite way as well applies is to put psychoanalysis in a position of having to update itself as well to deal with the new types of human being to do with the new challenges of technology and to move psychoanalysis along with conceptual and philosophical changes as well in the way that we talk about human bodies, for example, you know, no discourse is immune from needing to refresh itself. And one of the motivations for writing the book was that I was actually very much engaged with clinical psychoanalysis and learning about the clinic and training with clinicians. So when I was hearing all of the kind of clinical changes in the way that they were updating their sort of noisy, illogical diagnostic categories in how they're thinking about the contemporary subject. I was struck by the way that it was really fascinating and really interesting how psychoanalysis has had to move along with civilisational changes in the way that they diagnose and the way that they treat. Well, you know, in psychoanalysis, we don't talk about curing people or making people happy. It's a little bit more skeptical than that. On the possibility of human happiness, but essentially how to orient the analysis because the orientation in psychoanalysis is. The curse, or I should say is is is oriented along the lines of the structure of subjectivity. And this has a history going back to Freud, etc.. But essentially what what was being noticed that was that human beings were organizing themselves in various different ways and they weren't. And it was important to to recognize this in order to efficiently deal with the way that humans experience trauma and experience their bodies and experience. What we would put in, in inverted commas, is madness, because, of course, madness for psychoanalysis is that is again a term that we don't use because there isn't such a thing as madness as everybody's man to a greater or lesser degree. And so because of this, I also I felt that psychoanalysis needed to also engage with contemporary trends in critical theory and philosophy. People like, for example, Jean Bertoia, Francois Leotard, Frederic Kettler, people who were talking about technology and things like A.I. and simulation in the future and were sort of post lacanian thinkers. And I, I found that this clinical development needed to, like, refresh itself in step with these kind of these these trends that had been happening over the last 20 to 30 years. So, you know, yes, the fact that technology is changing our bodies, the fact that our bodies can now have the opportunity to change more when we want them to, means that psychoanalysis has to move along in step with that as well.
Steven Parton [00:34:33] Yeah. And do you think we're going to have a lot about ourselves revealed and maybe better or worse ways? And for instance, I think of I wonder with something like a sexpot, are we going to see things like, you know, schadenfreude, where like people are taking pleasure from abusing these these sex bots in the same way people take pleasure, it seems sometimes and and yelling angrily at their Siri or at their, you know, echo or at the, the personal assistant I that's in their house. Like, do you think there's potential that I guess our consciousness could be shifting and negative ways as we respond to the ability to have almost like a, you know, for lack of a better word, I'm most like a slave.
Isabel Millar [00:35:20] Well, absolutely. But the thing is, is that human beings already doing that now. I mean, human beings have been treating other human beings like slaves and continue to treat them like slaves even now, even when slavery is not legal. So, you know, there are many ways that this is pervasive. You know, sexism, racism, xenophobia, all of the horrible things about human beings are obviously just going to continue in our relationship to. To artificial intelligence. That's that's undoubted. And, you know, in on the question of this, the sex for all the sex robots. Yeah, of course. They're going to be used as, you know, objects of abuse, just as women are now. You know, the you know, in the sex industry, women are used to as objects of abuse all the time. Just people don't talk about it in polite society. But that is you know, that is what human beings do. So the idea that they wouldn't do that also to to things that they believe are not human. Well, probably they're probably nicer to their robots. We don't want to they want to damage them, saying that it costs money.
Steven Parton [00:36:30] Well, I guess that's my question is like, do you think technology or like an embodied I would potentially act as a muscle like a pressure release valve on some of these bad behaviors. Give us a maybe we treat each other better because we have this object that we can throw our negative behavior at, or might it instead wire us to see people as objects in the same way we, you know, maybe see the sex part.
Isabel Millar [00:36:58] Yeah. I mean, the thing is, it's just that that's the sort of age old question is, is there such a thing as cathartic release that is can be beneficial and you know, is there such a thing as taking your anger out on a not a real woman, a fake woman, and in order so that you don't do it to a real woman? I mean, I'm inclined to say no. But on the other hand, psychoanalysis teaches you that there is no avoiding human cruelty, there is no avoiding human desires and the complexity of sexuality and the sort of un respectability of it. There is no normative sexuality, there is no right way, but of course there is abuse, there is violence, there is right. There is all of these things that still exist that have this very strange relationship when it comes to actually realistically talking about what sex is. Because when you try to sort of sanitize the whole of sex and what you end up doing is pretending sex is something that that it isn't. And that's why it's always important to I think psychoanalysis needs to come in much more when we talk about sexuality because it problematize these things that we think we understand about consent, about violence, about fantasy. But all of these things that may or may not exist in different shades and degrees between between people engaging in a sexual relationship. And, you know, these things are not clear, as we know they're not. And as we've seen in the last couple of decades, the shift, the sudden monumental shifts, then suddenly people are realizing, oh, I didn't know that wasn't okay. And men are suddenly surprised. And it's like, well, you can't really be surprised, but people will, you know, if you live in a culture where things are accepted, it's okay, of course. But, you know, the story is more complex. You know, it's not it's not as simple as to say, is women like this and men shouldn't do that because what people want and what people get on aren't the same thing. So I think that, yes, technology exposes all the terrible things about us and also all the amazing things about us as well. But it's important to always be critical, always to be looking at the other side of things and the unsaid things and the hidden things, which is what psychoanalysis is so great doing, is unearthing all the terrible, scary things about humans, about culture, but also about ourselves, our own desires. What are the desires that we have that we don't act upon all that society doesn't allow? And which of those desires we have to reckon with ethically are okay desires, but they're not accepted by society or they really aren't good. And whether our society condones or not, they're just bad, you know? And this is the whole negotiation between societal ethics and psychoanalytic ethics, which is another very huge part of psychoanalysis, which is a negotiation between the subjective question of ethical desiring subject and how that fits into the law in in general and and culture.
Steven Parton [00:40:18] So do you have an interest in, I guess, artificial intelligence obtaining some sort of consciousness or the way that the subjective experience of the AI exists? Or is it more about the way this reflects who we are as people? Like, do you think there's something I mean, are you excited about the potential that I could become conscious and have these these philosophical quandaries, or is that less interesting to you then? I mean, then for us.
Isabel Millar [00:40:48] I'm more interested in in thinking about it because it makes us think about what thinking is I mean, classic philosophical answer, like it's matter, everything is matter. As far as I'm concerned. It's a way of asking different questions and new questions. So this sense, I'm kind of less interested in the kind of actual real development of air as it is now. People send me all the time the latest things that's happening in research and and I'm really glad that people do because it's nice. But at the same time, I'm like, you know, the latest horror story about what an air is doing, I still think. It's interesting, but it's kind of always still stuck within this paradigm of of kind of surveillance, for example, or the kind of administration of desire and how it will becoming completely detached from each other and all these kind of very familiar tropes. But now one day something will happen and we will go, Oh my God, you know, this is interesting. And there's a new question to be had. There are new there are new ideas. And that's why I find film fascinating, because it gives you it makes you go, oh, my God, and it doesn't have to be. I, for example, you know, like the film Arrival with its Denis Villeneuve. It was and it and Amy Adams and when she encounters a different species and she has to understand because she's a linguist and she has to try to work out what this strange language of speaking is, which is only via inked symbols. And she eventually realizes they operate in a whole different spatial temporal dimension to her. And that film is so amazing to me because it's it makes you think different questions about human beings and about encountering different forms of thought. So this is what I'm really interested. And this this it's just because I is one of those places that you can find those things.
Steven Parton [00:42:35] They're looking forward. What what would you I guess to offer up as guidance to either individuals who are just interested in the subject or developers of artificial intelligence. What like what are some of the the main ideas that you really want to get people thinking about what this book as they think about where we're going in this future.
Isabel Millar [00:43:02] I mean, I think. First of all, the question of, you know, subjectivity, the question of the body, the question of speech, the question of enjoyment, and how we've got to. Before we start thinking about what artificial intelligence is, we have to start thinking about human intelligences, and that type brings with it all of the philosophical problems that arise when you realize that the human being is not just a biological entity, it's not just a scientifically observable entity. It's something much more difficult and complicated than that. And, you know, psychoanalysis, one of the key sort of contributions to knowledge, as it were, that psychoanalysis does is to is to ask the question, what would a science be that that contains psychoanalysis within it. So Lacan was very interested in trying to figure out how psychoanalysis fit within the sciences, because, you know, Freud was obsessed with trying to make psychoanalysis fit with certain sciences of his day. And he was really interested in the intricacies of the human organism. And through that, he came about understanding that actually there was this thing called, you know, the body that didn't necessarily respond to science in the way that the sciences at the time wanted it to. Hence, the discovery of the, you know, Freud's discovery of, of, of the hysteric symptom was the beginning of psychoanalysis, which was women who experienced bodily symptoms that could not be explained by the medical sciences of the day. Hence the talking cure. Freud started to speak to these women and find out listening to their stories, listening to their words and their, you know, narrative about what what was it that was haunting them then? And ultimately, these were sexual questions. I want to say sexual. I don't just mean, you know, just the actual sex, I mean the sort of structural question of sexuality as a problem for human beings. And he discovered that this was something that couldn't be captured by science. It was something that needed psychoanalysis as well. Understand how the subject fits in to scientific discourse and how we factor in this kind of blind spot and subjectivity. And so Lacan took that idea to the nth degree, and he was he worked through all kinds of philosophical thinkers and philosophers of science epidemiologists to kind of understand this question. And it's such a complicated one. But, you know, he goes back to to Descartes. He he goes through Plato, he goes through Pascal, he goes through Shakespeare. He he goes through linguistics, structure, anthropology, you know, poetry. He uses all these resources to try and think about what is this? How do we fit this into the sciences? How do we fit this speaking subject into science? So what I would say is, is that people need to read more like Lewis, but not just like on people need to understand that all of these things are connected and there is there's no one scientific way of understanding. And I suppose the takeaway message for the world, for this particular conversation, I guess, would be because, you know, you're in I industry, I guess, and that is a place where science dominates. And so I guess it would be to say that science needs to be less complacent about its place within epistemological advancement of human knowledge.
Steven Parton [00:46:43] Yeah, maybe a little less reductionism.
Isabel Millar [00:46:45] Exactly.
Steven Parton [00:46:47] Wonderful. Well, I know we're coming up on time here, and I wonder if specters. Isabel So any closing thoughts or words or anything you want to promote or tell people about? Obviously, well, we'll link to the book, but anything you're working on or want to share?
Isabel Millar [00:47:00] Well, yeah. So, I mean, obviously, the book is The Science of Artificial Intelligence. And I'm sure you've got the Lincoln that's available. And I'm working on my next book, which is called Party Politics, and I'll be out with Bloomsbury next year. So yeah, all my all my stuff can be found on my website and videos and talks with lots of interesting people as well. So yeah, be good to, to see if, if people can emerge merge these thoughts with more kind of like industry led ideas that will be interesting to see.