In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • The Myth or Elegy of Artificial Intelligence by Tingyang Zhao
  • Xuejian Zhou (bio)
Rengongzhineng de shenhua huo beige 人工智能的神話或悲歌 ( The Myth or Elegy of Artificial Intelligence). By Tingyang Zhao 趙汀陽. Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2022. Pp. 155. Hardcover RMB68, isbn 978-981-16-7749-6.

In recent years, the philosophy of artificial intelligence has undoubtedly become one of the most popular topics. There is a vague viewpoint suggesting that Chinese philosophy might face challenges in addressing the philosophical issues posed by artificial intelligence. However, compared to the past, when discussing Chinese philosophy today, we must acknowledge the significant impact of modern technology. While the contemporary world does indeed witness clashes of civilizations, individuals from various civilizations share a common predicament: their close entanglement with modern technology. Regarding the future of Chinese philosophy, it becomes crucial to direct our attention towards modern advancements like artificial intelligence and the diverse range of issues they introduce. In light of this context, Zhao Tingyang's 趙汀陽 new book, The Myth or Elegy of Artificial Intelligence, presents us with a fresh perspective.

In this book, Zhao primarily delves into the philosophical issues surrounding Super Artificial Intelligence, a subject regarded as both a metaphysical and a political problem. This notion refers to artificial intelligence that surpasses general artificial intelligence in terms of functionality, and possesses self-consciousness. Therefore, "myth" refers to the myth of the emergence of Super Artificial Intelligence disrupting people's subjectivity, giving rise to a new myth of artificial intelligence. Conversely, the term "elegy" embodies the crisis in human destiny that stems from such profound changes, which will lead to an ontological revolution in human existence. This suggests that within the narrative of artificial intelligence's myth, there lies the elegy of humanity (p. 4). The intricate interplay between these two realms of myth and elegy vividly showcases the value of Chinese philosophy.

The book consists of a total of ten chapters. In Chapter 1, Zhao initially presents a thought-provoking question. With the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence humanity is faced with a novel ontological event, where the existence of artificial intelligence could potentially jeopardize human existence. This presents an ontological problem of "de-existence" (p. 8). As current artificial intelligence remains within the domain of the Turing machine concept and lacks subjectivity, it cannot effectively engage in matters involving self-correlation or [End Page 1] infiniteness. However, if artificial intelligence evolves into a super Turing machine endowed with subjectivity and free will, it could gain the capacity to modify its own programs and societal norms based on its needs or maximal benefits. This scenario introduces the possibility of a crisis in human existence, where the very existence of humanity is put at risk (pp. 17-23).

In Chapter 2, Zhao analyzes the safety conditions of artificial intelligence and proposes the need to establish self-destruct mechanisms for Super Artificial Intelligence to ensure the status of human existence (pp. 34-38). Interestingly, in this context, Zhao connects artificial intelligence with the concept of Tianxia 天下 ("all under heaven"), implying that in order to control capital and power, the world needs a new form of politics, namely, a Tianxia 天下 system. Tianxia 天下 represents a world system that ensures world peace and the shared interests of people in a multicultural context, a non-exclusive system defining the world beyond any particular entity. According to Zhao, only a Tianxia 天下 system can manage the technological risks of the world (p. 39). Theoretically (hopefully in practice as well), a significant application of the Tianxia 天下 system would be to use global authority to limit any high-risk behaviors.

Based on the first two chapters, it becomes apparent that the dangers related to artificial intelligence do not lie in its current capabilities, but in its potential for self-consciousness. For this reason, in Chapter 3, Zhao analyzes this issue further. In his view, once artificial intelligence possesses the ability for self-reflection, it will become possible for it to transform its own system and create new rules. Especially if artificial intelligence invents a universal language of its own, equivalent to human natural language, then all program systems could be reinterpreted, reconstructed, and redefined using this universal language (pp. 47-52). Furthermore, if...