1st Edition

The Culture of AI Everyday Life and the Digital Revolution

By Anthony Elliott Copyright 2019
    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    In this ground-breaking book, Cambridge-trained sociologist Anthony Elliott argues that much of what passes for conventional wisdom about artificial intelligence is either ill-considered or plain wrong. The reason? The AI revolution is not so much about cyborgs and super-robots in the future, but rather massive changes in the here-and-now of everyday life.

    In The Culture of AI, Elliott explores how intelligent machines, advanced robotics, accelerating automation, big data and the Internet of Everything impact upon day-to-day life and contemporary societies. With remarkable clarity and insight, Elliott’s examination of the reordering of everyday life highlights the centrality of AI to everything we do – from receiving Amazon recommendations to requesting Uber, and from getting information from virtual personal assistants to talking with chatbots.

    The rise of intelligent machines transforms the global economy and threatens jobs, but equally there are other major challenges to contemporary societies – although these challenges are unfolding in complex and uneven ways across the globe. The Culture of AI explores technological innovations from industrial robots to softbots, and from self-driving cars to military drones – and along the way provides detailed treatments of:

    • The history of AI and the advent of the digital universe;
    • automated technology, jobs and employment;
    • the self and private life in times of accelerating machine intelligence;
    • AI and new forms of social interaction;
    • automated vehicles and new warfare;
    • and, the future of AI.

    Written by one of the world’s foremost social theorists, The Culture of AI is a major contribution to the field and a provocative reflection on one of the most urgent issues of our time. It will be essential reading to those working in a wide variety of disciplines including sociology, science and technology studies, politics, and cultural studies.


    1. The Digital Universe

    2. The Rise of Robotics

    3. Digital Life and the Self

    4. Digital Technologies and Social Interaction

    5. Modern Societies, Mobility and Artificial Intelligence

    6. AI and Social Futures


    Anthony Elliott is Executive Director of the Hawke EU Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence at the University of South Australia, where he is Research Professor of Sociology and Chancellery Dean of External Engagement. He is Super-Global Professor of Sociology (Visiting) at Keio University, Japan, and Visiting Professor of Sociology at UCD, Ireland. Professor Elliott studied at the Universities of Melbourne and Cambridge, where he was supervised by Lord Anthony Giddens. He was previously Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK and was Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Flinders University, Australia. Professor Elliott is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, a Fellow of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, and a member of King’s College, Cambridge. He is the author and editor of some 40 books, which have been translated or are forthcoming in 17 languages. His recent books include Identity (4 volumes), Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction, The New Individualism (with Charles Lemert), Mobile Lives (with John Urry), On Society (with Bryan S. Turner), Reinvention, Identity Troubles, and The Culture of AI. He is best known for Concepts of the Self, which has been in continuous print for 20 years and across three editions.

    "A unique and original contribution to the debate about AI now unfolding across the world. Rather than offering an exercise in futurology, Elliott provides a detailed and sophisticated analysis of the impact of AI and the digital revolution in the here and now."

    - Professor Lord Anthony Giddens, Department of Sociology, London School of Economics

    "The book breaks new ground by covering familiar debates about the impact of digital systems – Robotics, AI and Machine Learning - on jobs; communication, mobility and life-styles; the transformation of identities and self; embattled democracies and the global economic order. By focusing on everyday digital experience it provides well-argued insights into the adaptive interactions between humans and digital machines and into the digitally mediated connectivity between humans. It presents the self as information system and thus a timely answer to pervasive cultural anxieties and techno-hype alike. Anthony Elliott prepares us to better understand the digital world that surrounds us already."

    - Helga Nowotny, Professor Emerita of Science and Technology Studies, ETH Zurich, and Former President of the European Research Council (ERC)

    "Hollywood has blinded us to the idea that AI will bring a future of intelligent robots. But, as Anthony Elliott shows in this important book, the reality is that AI is already here and its impact encompasses the entirety of our social relations. A very welcome addition to the debate about the impact of AI on society."

    - Toby Walsh, Professor of AI, UNSW and author of 2062: The World that AI Made

    "Artificial Intelligence is an overused term which has been the subject of too many inflated claims. So we are lucky that in this book, Anthony Elliott expertly guides us through this thicket of hyperbole and out onto clearer ground. His emphasis on what software does - what Kaplan has called anthropic computing - and how it is transforming the mundanities of everyday life through a grab-bag of software is a welcome antidote to AI as a false idol which, at the same time, shows us where the opportunities and worries really are. A measured read which really takes the measure of AI."

    - Sir Nigel Thrift, Visiting Professor, Oxford and Tsinghua Universities

    "Anthony Elliott’s compelling and accessible book is an impressive survey of the impact of artificial intelligence on almost everything, from global politics to everyday communication. Adopting his fine theoretical lens, he raises crucial questions particularly regarding the power of automated technologies to reconfigure our sense of ourselves, our very identity. The book is essential reading for understanding the way digital transformations work in the contemporary moment."

    - Judy Wajcman, Anthony Giddens Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics

    "In his new book The Culture of AI, Elliott – dean of external engagement, professor of sociology and executive director of the Hawke EU Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and Network at the University of South Australia – argues that while apocalyptic fears of a future dominated by cyborgs and killer robots are missing the point, the prospect of mass unemployment is very real.

    According to Elliott, the AI revolution is already upon us. It is acting alongside associated trends – including accelerated automation, big data, 3D printing, cloud computing, Industry 4.0 and the "internet of everything" – to reshape everyday life in pervasive but often "mundane" ways."

    - John Ross, Times Higher Education