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Between Promise and Peril: Observations on Moral Panic, Popular Culture, and Religion

ARC Admin
2024-02-05 10:38 UTC+7 364

RELIGION AND SOCIAL COMMUNICATION VOLUME 21, NO. 2 (2023)

ISSN 1686-9184

Author

Lee-Shae Salma Scharnick-Udemans

Abstract

The potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI), in its seemingly infinite possibilities and transmutations command the attention of contemporary popular culture, news, and social media. The landing pages of familiar streaming channels such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV are evidence of the continually growing collection of mediatised content wherein AI is featured as a central theme. In addition to films, tech news media sites, offering information and commentary related to AI developments are popular and accessible sources of information. Unfortunately, the contents on these sites, like the films are foreboding in tone, offering headlines that reflect issues and questions related to AI, as urgent and imminent. This article explores how mediatized representations in the form of films and tech news contribute to engendering collective public apprehension and concern about AI. It suggests that the agenda-setting function of media, especially its imperative to encourage public concern over matters that may or may not constitute threats to social order, can be more critically understood through the framework that the concept of moral panic provides. In doing so, the article conceptualises the current moment as the embryonic phase of a moral panic. It advances the idea that we are able, at this stage of the process, to acknowledge and abate growing concerns and fears about AI that may constitute a full blown moral panic. In conclusion, the paper suggests that while AI should certainly be approached with critical curiosity, the danger of a moral panic is that it may result in permanent, indiscriminate, and harsh admonishment of AI, undermining its potential to serve humanity in positive and life-affirming ways.

Keywords

moral panic, AI, film, tech news, M3GAN, Wifelike

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PAGES 294-312

DOI: https://doi.org/10.62461/LSS103023

Submitted: September 15, 2023; Accepted: October 30, 2023; Published: December 31, 2023.

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