Narrating System Intentionality: Copycat and the Artificial Intelligence Hermeneutic Network


  • Jichen Zhu
  • D. Fox Harrell


Computer systems designed explicitly to exhibit human-like intentionality (seeming to be about and directed toward the world) represent a phenomenon of increasing cultural importance. In the discourse about artificial intelligence (AI) systems, system intentionality is often seen as a technical property of a program, resulting from its underlying algorithms and knowledge engineering. By contrast, this article proposes a humanistic framework of the AI hermeneutic network, which states that along with any technical aspects, system intentionality is narrated and interpreted by its human creators and users. We pay special attention to system authors’ discursive strategies in constructing system intentionality. Finally, we demonstrate the utility of our theoretic framework with a close reading of a fullscale AI system, Douglas Hofstadter and Melanie Mitchell’s Copycat.