Individual and portrait make a genuine connection. The “portrait as a figuration of the particular” has not only a sociological dimension, namely the conditions of abstraction of a section of society that has remained small in numbers at all times; it also requires individuality (understood as an offshoot of singularity) as an existing concept of possibility.
This concept faces existential challenges, such as brain research and its relativization of free will, and molecular genetics with their determinism relativized by epigenetics. But, in addition to these, the renaissance of so-called artificial intelligence with its self-learning systems, after a first peak of subsequently “disillusioned” hopes in the ’sixties, has recently become another crisis factor for the concept of an individual. Self-learning systems work in a way that is very difficult for human understanding to access – if it can do so at all. Even if they are based on man-made algorithms, not to speak of the infrastructural environment, which too depends on man-made conditions, nonetheless at some point self-learning systems, specifically Deep Learning, seem to take off and leave human understanding behind. Humans may come to feel excluded here. This is the point where Deep Learning seems to become the opposite of traditional computing, which processes human input of code in foreseeable – sometimes called “linear” – ways, if the code is any good.
The urgent question is what kind of continuation of the concept of the individual will be possible under the conditions of artificial intelligence in the medium term, and to what extent it will be possible to modify the individual without breaking it. And what breaking would really mean. A first exploration of these necessary questions will be offered in this lecture.
Respondenz: Manfred Thaller (Köln)