Technologies of “artificial intelligence” (AI) and machine learning (ML) are increasingly presented as solutions to key problems of our societies. Companies are developing, investing in, and deploying machine learning applications at scale in order to filter and organize content, mediate transactions, and make sense of massive sets of data. At the same time, social and legal expectations are ambiguous, and the technical challenges are substantial.
This is the introductory article to a special theme that addresses this turn to AI as a technical, discursive and political phenomena. The opening article contextualizes this theme by unfolding this multi-layered nature of the turn to AI. It argues that, whereas public and economic discourses position the widespread deployment of AI and automation in the governance of digital communication as a technical turn with a narrative of revolutionary breakthrough-moments and of technological progress, this development is at least similarly dependent on a parallel discursive and political turn to AI. The article positions the current turn to AI in the longstanding motif of the “technological fix” in the relationship between technology and society, and identifies a discursive turn to responsibility in platform governance as a key driver for AI and automation. In addition, a political turn to more demanding liability rules for platforms further incentivizes platforms to automatically screen their content for possibly infringing or violating content, and position AI as a solution to complex social problems.