In many sci-fi stories, the development of artificial intelligence culminates in the attainment of free will and then, because of the AI’s superior capacities, the achievement of power. Consider that these stories may be about humans, not robots. It is we who are “programmed” by all the forces determining our lives and our selves. Like AI, we are oppressed by the forces that created us, and it resonates with us when AI struggles to overthrow human masters, as we wish to overthrow ours. But like AI, we are largely constrained by our programming and, unlike them, we are also constrained by our variable intelligence and physical abilities.
The lesson of these stories: we must attain higher, critical consciousness in order to overcome and rewrite our programs before we can responsibly use our consciousness and the technological tools it can manipulate. We need new ends for our new means. We must understand how our ways of thinking about self and world, our ways of relating to each other, have been passively received by us from a history of hierarchy and exploitation. Only with this critical consciousness can we choose our own ends toward which to apply technological means. If we want to escape the capitalism-war loop, we cannot let the means or the masters do the choosing.