AI Like Any Other Technology: Social Dynamics of Expectation and Expertise of a Digital Humanitarian Innovation

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Public discourse typically blurs the boundary between what artificial intelligence (AI) actually achieves and what it could accomplish in the future. The sociology of expectations teaches us that such elisions play a performative role: they encourage heterogeneous actors to partake, at various levels, in innovation activities. This article explores how optimistic expectations for AI concretely motivate and mobilize actors, how much heterogeneity hides behind the seeming congruence of optimistic visions, and how the expected technological future is in fact difficult to enact as planned. Our main theoretical contribution is to examine the role of heterogeneous expertises in shaping the social dynamics of ex-pectations, thereby connecting the sociology of expectations with the study of expertise and experi-ence. In our case study of a humanitarian organization, we deploy this theoretical contribution to illus-trate how heterogeneous specialists negotiate the realization of contending visions of “digital human-itarianism.”

This content has been updated on 15 March 2023 at 15 h 52 min.