Spatializing ‘Intelligence’ of SETI and AI. AAG SEA virtual 2021.

2021 Lynch C. and K. Sammler. Spatializing ‘Intelligence’: Techno-Logics of SETI and AI. American Association of Geographers, Online, 7–11 Apr.

TITLE: Spatializing ‘Intelligence’: Techno-Logics of SETI and AI

AUTHORS: Katherine Sammler*, Helmholtz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity and Casey R Lynch, University of Nevada – Reno

ABSTRACT: This paper explores how intelligence gets defined and operationalized in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and the development of artificially intelligent agents. The search for life, let alone intelligent life, offplanet is limited by the technological tools available, but these tools also influence the definitional search for what is intelligent. From the initiation of SETI, the linking of intelligent life in the universe to “civilization” and “communication” has been categorical, each with their own surrounding controversies. In the case of the drive to develop artificial intelligence, researchers have theorized intelligence in multiple ways–from a focus on the manipulation of abstract symbols or the electrical signaling of the brain’s neurons, to behavior-based robotics’ perspective of intelligence as emergent out of embodied interactions in the world. The understanding of and search for intelligence whether artificial or alien, converged in two ways. The search for alien intelligence now uses various algorithms within the realm of AI and many theories of alien intelligence involve biological beings evolving into cyborgs, digitizing themselves, or creating and being outlived by intelligent machines. In both cases, intelligence is defined in relation to the particular techno-social-political-economic milieux in which these activities are carried out. As Byung-Chul Han (2017: 85) explains: “[Intelligence] is system-immanent. A given system defines a given intelligence. Accordingly, intelligence has no access to what is wholly Other.” Geographers have an important role to play in debates about intelligence by questioning the spatialities through which particular definitions of intelligence become operationalized and come to shape the world.

KEYWORDS: outer space geographies, digital geographies, robots, technology