Artificial intelligence is everywhere but it is considered in a wholly ahistorical way. To understand the impact AI will have on our lives, it is vital to appreciate the context in which the field was established. After all, statistics and state control have evolved hand in hand for hundreds of years.

Consider computing. Its origins have been traced not only to analytic philosophy, pure mathematics and Alan Turing, but perhaps surprisingly, to the history of public administration. In “The Government Machine: A Revolutionary History of the Computer” from 2003, Jon Agar of University College London charts the development of the British civil service as it ballooned from 16,000 employees in 1797 to 460,000 by 1999. He noticed an uncanny similarity between the functionality of a human bureaucracy and that of the digital electronic computer. (He confessed that he could not tell whether this observation was trivial or profound.)

And coming from the The Economist no less. To read more, click here.