Sociological Imagination; Artificial Intelligence and Alan Turing

 

Sociological Imagination: Artificial Intelligence and Alan Turing

 

Çağatay Topal

DTCF Press, 2017

 

Abstract

“C. Wright Mills views sociological imagination as the ability to relate the most intimate to the most impersonal. There are essential linkages between personal troubles and social issues. The sociologist should be able to trace the linkages between biographies and histories. Sociological imagination necessitates sensibility, commitment and responsibility since sociology is a practice of life as well as a practice of work. Sociology is, then, a practice that potentially everyone can perform. The crucial condition is the existence of sociological imagination and sensibility. This sensibility indicates the capacity to picture a social imaginary, however broad or limited. This paper traces the sociological imagination of Alan Turing, who is often considered as the founder of modern computing technology. The history of Turing’s scientific endeavours follows (and is followed by) his biography, revealing the strong linkages between his life and work. Turing’s sensible, committed and responsible attitude is clear in several cases. This paper focuses on the case of artificial intelligence in order to assess Turing’s sociological imagination. The paper claims that Alan Turing has the sensibility and imagination to picture a social imaginary. In order to analyse Turing’s imagination in the example of artificial intelligence, the paper refers to three faces of sociological imagination of Mills: (1) emphasis on the relation between the most intimate and the most impersonal; (2)
developing new sensibilities and new spaces of sensibility; (3) imagining a social picture. By referring to these three faces, the paper analyses the biography of Turing, his mathematical but also sociological imagination, and artificial intelligence as the product of this imagination; and again through artificial intelligence, it further aims to demonstrate the different possibilities in C. W. Mills’ concept of sociological imagination.”

 

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