Machine Learning

Good AI for the Present of Humanity

Democratizing AI Governance

By Nicholas Kluge Corrêa [1]   and Nythamar de Oliveira [2] 

[1] Master in Electrical Engineering and Ph.D. student in Philosophy (PUCRS),, ORCID: 0000-0002-5633-6094
[2] Ph.D. in Philosophy (State University of New York, 1994), Full Professor – PUCRS,, ORCID: 0000-0001-9241-1031
Graduate Program in Philosophy of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul – Av. Ipiranga, 6681 - Partenon, Porto Alegre - RS, 90619-900.

AI Ethics Journal 2021, *FIX* 2(1)-1, *PUT DOI LINK*

Received *DAY MONTH YEAR * || Accepted *DAY MONTH YEAR * || Published *DAY MONTH YEAR *


Keywords: AI ethics, Cyberpunk, Technological unemployment, Humanitarian cost, Lack of diversity, Ethical guidelines.

0.1 Abstract

What do Cyberpunk and AI Ethics have to do with each other? Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that explores the post-human relationships between human experience and technology. One similarity between AI Ethics and Cyberpunk literature is that both seek to explore future social and ethical problems that our technological advances may bring upon society. In recent years, an increasing number of ethical matters involving AI have been pointed and debated, and several ethical principles and guides have been suggested as governance policies for the tech industry. However, would this be the role of AI Ethics? To serve as a soft and ambiguous version of the law? We would like to advocate in this article for a more Cyberpunk way of doing AI Ethics, with a more democratic way of governance. In this study, we will seek to expose some of the deficits of the underlying power structures of the AI industry, and suggest that AI governance be subject to public opinion, so that ‘good AI’ can become ‘good AI for all.’

1.0 For a more ‘Cyberpunk’ way of conducting AI Ethics

With the ever-growing advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), autonomous systems are increasingly becoming a part of our society, with novel technologies such as robotics, nanotechnology, genetics, and artificial intelligence, promising to transform our world and the way we live (Mulhall, 2002). At the present moment, the most accessible and massively used technology in our society, of those mentioned above, is AI. Given the size and complexity that our society has grown, human beings alone are not able to cope with the demands of processes that are vital to our civilization, and we increasingly rely on the help of intelligent automation.

We realize that, perhaps without many controversies, our current society cannot exist in its present form without the help of such technologies. Samuel Butler (1863), in his work ‘Darwin Among the Machines’, questioned our ‘quiescent bondage’ to technology. Butler argued that one day we would reach the point where society would no longer be able to separate itself from its technological creations because it would be equivalent to the suicide of the status quo. In Butler's words: ‘[…] this at once proves that the mischief is already done, that our servitude has commenced […].’ 

In the end, whether all the technological modernization we experience will result in a future good for all humanity is still a question with no answer. And many believe that this is an answer worth pursuing sooner rather than later. We agree thus with Feenberg (2017) in that the critique of hubris is the basis for an ethic and a politics of technology, as we renounce the illusion of godlike power to master nature and bend it to our will through technology, given our human finitude. In effect, we need a realistic, balanced view of both technology and ethics without demonizing or idolizing the former and avoiding normativism and dogmatism when dealing with the latter.

In sociological and literary terms, contemporary critical theory, with its origins in sociology and literary criticism, proposes to conduct a reflexive and critical assessment of society and culture to reveal and challenge deficits in their underlying power structures. We propose that there is a fruitful relationship between the criticism made by contemporary critical theorists, like Craig Calhoun (1995), Paul Virilio (1997), Hartmut Rosa (2010), and Andrew Feenberg (2017) that can help ethics be more ‘what it was meant to be.’ 

We also would like to point out that while contemporary critical theory focuses on the present, another possible form of criticism involves extrapolating the future. Cyberpunk, a subgenre of science fiction, seeks to show how our technological advances can lead our society to dystopian outcomes, and the ethical and social problems which may be ahead. Authors such as Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), John Brunner (Stand on Zanzibar), William Gibson (Neuromancer), surrounded by the technological innovations of the '80s and '90s (internet, AI, robotics, virtual reality, genetics), gave rise to a form of literature aimed to criticize certain aspects of the postmodern condition.

Fredric Jameson defines cyberpunk as ‘[...] the supreme literal expression, if not of postmodernism, then of late capitalism itself’ (Jameson, 1991, p. 417). Similar to Jameson, Jean Baudrillard (1994) proposed that given the rapid pace of social and cultural transformation we are experiencing, sociological studies are increasingly approaching what we call science fiction, where we progressively need to anticipate social change while it is happening.
And when it comes to ethical and philosophical debates, what we see today is a kind of ‘soft’ response to the postmodern critique of cyberpunk, that is: how can we avoid the blind march into the dystopian future? How can we avoid the emergence of increasingly authoritarian and technocratic states? In this context, the premise for security issues involving our technological advances is established on an idea of a negative utopia. In the words of Robert Tally:


"First of all, the utopian impulse must be negative: identify the problem or problems that must be corrected. Far from presenting an idyllic, happy and fulfilled world, utopias should initially present the root causes of society's ills [...] to act as a criticism of the existing system (Tally, 2009, p. 11)."


We can thus say that the critique proposed by some critical theorists, some postmodern sociologists and philosophers, and Cyberpunk is a manifestation of the negative utopian impulse. But do we see this spirit of critique in the current debate of AI Ethics? In our opinion, very little. What we see is a great number of Ethical Guidelines being proposed to regulate the tech industry (Russell et al., 2015; Amodei et al., 2016; Boddington, 2017; Goldsmith & Burton, 2017; Greene et al., 2019). But of course, if the industry chooses to follow them. It's not as if they were laws. 

Would all these published ethical guidelines have any real normative power over the AI industry? Like Ryan Calo (2017), we also think that ethical guidelines end up serving more as a marketing strategy than a real effort to regulate the tech industry: 




2.0 Social media; relied on by us and reliant on machine learning

To begin, let us rsonalised advertisements and the ranking of content is crucially leveraged by


3.0 Split reality: anti-social social media

To analyse the effects of social media on individual users we begin by considering some of the

4.0 The split subject: a story ending in lotus eaters?

I intend to employ Pettman’s analysis in this chapter to begin discussing the implications of the I


5.0 A season for compartments

Turkle’s idea of a split reality is derived from an analysis of a very particular group, the cyborgs at

6.0 Conclusion

Turkle’s idea of a split reality is derived from an analysis of a very particular group, the cyborgs at

Declaration of Interest

Turkle’s idea of a split reality is derived from an analysis of a very particular group, the cyborgs at

Disclosure of Funding

Turkle’s idea of a split reality is derived from an analysis of a very particular group, the cyborgs at




[1] McCarthy states that McLuhan is responsible for the original idea behind the phrase ‘we shape our tools and then they shape us’, but the origin of this maxim is contested. Some would argue that the first to say something along these lines was Max Weber, but the purpose of this essay is not to trace authorship of this maxim but rather to use it to better understand the phenomena of social media. 


[1] Facebook. (2020).Facebook Reports second Quarter 2020 Results. Available at: (Date accessed: 10/04/19).