Isabel Millar

Research project: The Psychoanalysis of Artificial Intelligence

Abstract

In 1973 Jacques-Alain Miller interviewed Jacques Lacan for a French television broadcast, challenging the renegade psychoanalyst about the direction in which he had steered Freudian psychoanalysis. Miller's interview concludes with 'setting a task' for Lacan to either 'reply' to the three Kantian questions: 'What can I know?', 'What ought I to do?' and 'What may I hope for?' or 'find a way of putting [the questions] differently'. In Lacan's view, it was not for the analyst to ask the Kantian questions, but rather to allow the subject to realise her position with respect to them. The fourth Kantian question 'What is man?' was never broached in this interview. One could nonetheless argue that it constitutes the underlying thread that runs through the whole of the Lacanian Orientation and the Millerian interpretation thereof. Nearly 50 years on, the task that Miller once set for his father-in-law has taken on a different urgency and relevance to psychoanalysis.

Aiming to simulate and even surpass human intelligence, AI and the creation of the artificial brain, which promises to separate neuroscience from biology and thought from the body, present a new challenge to psychoanalysis. This thesis takes AI as a novel dimension of psychoanalytic theory which requires different conceptual armoury, and at the same time considers psychoanalysis as a crucial tool in our understanding of what AI means for us as speaking, sexed subjects. In short AI and psychoanalysis stand in extimate relation to one another.

The thesis deploys the three Kantian questions as framing devices to explore the onto-epistemological question of sex as the key element in our understanding of the psychoanalytic significance of AI in terms of sex and knowledge, sex and ethics and sex and hope. How can the psychoanalytic object be conceived in light of AI? How does enjoyment problematize the relationship between being and thinking? What kind of ethics can be thought in relation to the "undead" body of AI? What would sexual reproduction mean in the age of replication? In order to understand AI psychoanalytically, the thesis argues, a conceptual shift from the object a to the lathouse is needed. Whilst undertheorized in Lacan's work, the lathouse underscores the primacy of the material and structural effects of AI on the sexed being.

Bringing together the notion of the lathouse and the speaking body, I develop and mobilize the conceptual figure of the Sexbot to theorise the interface between AI and psychanalysis through the medium of film. I examine three films, which depict various aspects of the Sexbot; Ex Machina (knowledge); Ghost in the Shell (ethics); Blade Runner 2049 (hope). Via these cinematic examples, I analyse human-A.I relationships and the forms of enjoyment which they exemplify through the lens of the Lacanian non-existent sexual relation, positing sexuality as the irreducible ontolo-techno-scientific problem that underlies the entrance of AI into the social bond. The psychoanalysis of the Sexbot shows that thinking is alien to us, that enjoyment is undead, and that sexuation is ontological rather than biological. I therefore shift the question of AI from a concern with 'does it think?' to 'can it enjoy?' The thesis concludes with a reflection on the fourth Kantian question 'what is man?' - a question, which can be articulated in conversation with the psychoanalysis of artificial intelligence.

Biography

I am a writer and PhD researcher with experience in television, higher education, screen writing, and human rights. I am also contributor and co-editor of Everyday Analysis. https://everydayanalysis.org/

Following my BA in Philosophy at the University of Sussex I worked as a TV presenter and producer in Spain. After which I returned to London to work in human rights activism and completed a Masters in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London alongside writing comedy and several screenplays. Between 2016-2017 I was the UK's first Secular Adviser in Higher Education, consulting on sensitive social, cultural and pastoral issues at the University of Westminster. 

I am now in my final year of doctoral study and preparing my thesis manuscript for publication.

Areas of research interest

  • Lacanian Psychoanalysis
  • Contemporary Philosophy
  • Cultural Theory
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Sexuality
  • Media and Film
  • Film Theory
  • Aesthetics

Qualifications

  • BA Philosophy: University of Sussex
  • MA Psychosocial Studies: Birkbeck College, University of London

Publications

Millar, I. (Forthcoming) "Before we even know what we are, we fear to lose it": The Missing Object of the Primal Scene. In C. Neill      (ed.) Bladerunner 2049: Some Lacanian Thoughts: London: Palgrave Macmillan

Millar, I. (2019) Kant avec Sade: A Ghost in the Shell? Vestigia Journal (2)1

Millar, I. (2019) The sexual relation does not exist, but does my sex-bot know? Journal of the Centre for Freudian  Analysis and Research

Millar, I. (2019) Ex-Machina: Sex, Knowledge and Artificial Intelligence. Psychoanalytische Perspectieven 36(4) : 447-467

Millar, I (2018) Black Mirror: From Lacan's lathouse to Miller's speaking body. Psychoanalytische Perspectieven 36(2): 187-205

Conference papers

The Courtauld Institute of Art - Imagining the Apocalypse Conference                                         2019

The Apocalypse of Sex

Duquesne University -  Lacan's Ecrits Conference                                                                          2019

Kant avec Sade: A Ghost in the Shell

Edinburgh Napier University - Lacan in Scotland Guest Lecture                                                    2019

Sex, Artificial Intelligence and the Enigma of Reproduction

Warwick Continental Philosophy Conference                                                                                    2019

Kant avec Sade: A Sex Robot Ethics

The Freud Museum: Beyond the Joke: Psychoanalysis and Comedy Conference                        2019                          

Panellist with Everyday Analysis Collective

The Laboratory for Lacanian Politics                                                                                                  2019

Jacques Alain Miller's 'A Fantasy': Revisited

The Laboratory for Lacanian Politics                                                                                                  2018

Baudrillard and The Ecstacy of Communication                                                                

The Laboratory for Lacanian Politics                                                                                                  2018

 Bodies, Networks and Borders: Jean Claude Milner's 'The Traps of The All'                                           

University of Ghent - Lacan's Ecrits Conference                                                                               2018

Algorhithmic Extimacy: Enjoyment and Artificial Intelligence

University of Essex - Society for European Philosophy Conference                                               2018

Enjoyments of the Alethosphere

Middlesex University - Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society Conference                                       2018

Enjoyment in the Age of Ordinary Psychosis

University of Ghent - Doctoral Workshop on Lacan's Seminar XX                                                   2017

On the Baroque

Winchester University: Society for European Philosophy Conference                                               2017

Artificial Intelligence and the Sexual Compact

Middlesex University - Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society Conference                                          2017

The sexual relation does not exist, but does my Sex-Bot know?

Regents University - Society for European Philosophy Conference                                                     2016

Ordinary Psychosis and Contemporary Materialism

Kingston University - Humanities & Social Sciences Research Conference                                      2016   

Give Me Back My Name: The Subject of Ordinary Psychosis

Kingston University - Media & Communication Research Conference                                               2016

The Real and the Subject: Contemporary Lacanian Symptoms