David Bates

David Bates

Professor of Rhetoric
Department of Rhetoric
(510) 642-2172
Research Expertise and Interest
artificial intelligence, enlightenment, early Modern European intellectual history, 20th century European and American intellectual history, history and theory of media and technology, history of political thought

I work on two main research tracks: one on the history of legal and political ideas, and the other on the relationship between technology, science, and the history of human cognition.  Future work will bring these interests closer together, as my research will focus more on the connections between reason, technology, and the state as they develop in the age of cybernetic systems and the rethinking of the living organism in that context.

I am now completing a book,  An Artificial History of Natural Intelligence, that probes the emergence of human thinking as an entanglement between machine technologies, somatic processes, media practices, and social/political organization. Beginning with an examination of Cartesian robotics and early modern reflections on automaticity, I go on to show how "artificial intelligence" marks a peculiar stage in the history of reason, one that privileges the isolated mind. The critique of contemporary models of automatic cognition requires unwinding a certain history of automaticity spawned by this moment, and rediscovering another history of the human as it develops and evolves within technical systems.

My new book project is The Concept of the Political in the Age of Intelligent Machines, a critical history of the intersection between technology and political theory in the twentieth century that focuses on the political dimensions of cybernetics and AI and the technological aspects of political concepts.

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