An Artificial Revolution: On Power, Politics & AI


Ivana Bartoletti
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AI has unparalleled transformative potential to reshape society but without legal scrutiny, international oversight and public debate, we are sleepwalking into a future written by algorithms which encode regressive biases into our daily lives. As governments and corporations worldwide embrace AI technologies in pursuit of efficiency and profit, we are at risk of losing our common humanity: an attack that is as insidious as it is pervasive.

Leading privacy expert Ivana Bartoletti exposes the reality behind the AI revolution, from the low-paid workers who train algorithms to recognise cancerous polyps, to the rise of data violence and the symbiotic relationship between AI and right-wing populism. Impassioned and timely, An Artificial Revolution is an essential primer to understand the intersection of technology and geopolitical forces shaping the future of civilisation, and the political response that will be required to ensure the protection of democracy and human rights.


‘Bartoletti exhorts us at all times to bring our human intelligence to bear on the potentially dystopian power structures behind AI, writing with clarity, expertise and passion.’
—Paul Mason, author of PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future

‘A powerful wake up call… Tech should benefit everyone and Bartoletti’s book argues passionately for how it could and should improve our burning planet.’
—Ayesha Hazarika, broadcaster, journalist and political commentator

‘Bartoletti demonstrates the potential for artificial intelligence to encode discrimination of all kinds into algorithmic patterns. Technology can improve our lives, but to harness all its positive potential, she rightly and powerfully insists on public accountability and scrutiny.’
—David Lammy MP

‘Bartoletti’s feminist gaze is sharp on male technocrats using tech tools to manipulate and persuade politically… I am still reeling from its power.’
—Noel Sharkey, Eremitus Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University of Sheffield

‘Ivana powerfully exposes the reality of data discrimination and online targeting in society and the danger of AI, as a result, becoming our master not our servant. She also clearly outlines the radical changes to power structures and culture and the embedding of ethics which are necessary in finding the solution.’
—Tim Clement-Jones, Lib Dem spokesperson for the digital economy in the House of Lords

‘An essential read. At a time when we are fighting to put our environment at the top of the political agenda, Ivana Bartoletti lucidly demonstrates how another future for our digital environment.’
—Mete Coban, CEO of My Life My Say

‘An absorbing and thought-provoking analysis of how technology is transforming our life, and a simple message: workers are far more than something for algorithms to hire or fire. AI holds promises and can make our life better but only if we, citizens, workers and trade unions are involved in the conversation.’
—Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC

‘AI is going to shake up the way we do everything. That’s why Ivana Bartoletti is calling on everyone to shake up the way we think about AI.’
—Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee

Dimensions: A format paperback with flaps
Length: 144 pages
Published: 20 May 2020
ISBN: 9781911648116
Cover design: © House of Thought

Publicist: Susie Nicklin at The Indigo Press
Foreign rights: The Marsh Agency

About the author

Ivana Bartoletti is a privacy and ethics consultant, and supports businesses in their privacy by design programmes, especially in relation to Artificial Intelligence and blockchain technology. Her interests include AI, data ethics and feminism. She co-founded the Women Leading in AI Network, a lobby group that empowers women to shape the norms of AI, and is the chair of the Fabian Society.

Ivana was named Woman of the Year 2019 in the Cyber Security Awards. With an academic background in human rights and law, Ivana has previously worked as adviser to the Minister of Human Rights and as Information Governance Manager at the NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management.

An Artificial Revolution

This book draws on my experience as a feminist and as a data and privacy leader, and on my many years in politics, working with governments, corporations, international organizations, coders, and policymakers about data, privacy and artificial intelligence (AI).

I have concluded that technological solutions will not address the urgent challenges that AI and big data are bringing to our world.

As a feminist, I feel the need to challenge the myth of ‘data neutrality’ and to interrogate the gendered power dynamics that underpin the AI debate. Data is a form of capital, and it behaves as such, replicating the dynamics and inequalities of capitalism. Data collection is in itself an act of choice and, this book will argue, of violence.

As a privacy leader, I see the concept of privacy as a collective good being undermined. Our lives are being invaded by AI-driven algorithms, which increasingly drive our decisions, our desires and our political opinions. We are losing both our spontaneous human individuality and our sense of community as news and information become increasingly atomized experiences.

As a politician, I know that as AI systems are increasingly endowed with agency, and algorithms are progressively replacing policy-making, we will need to ask fundamental questions about what purpose this is serving.

Along the way, I will ask why we don’t have an anti-AI movement like we have had an anti-nuclear movement. Without controls, oversight and international law, AI will be just as dangerous, and perhaps more so.

I must stress that this is not an anti-technology book – this is a book about technology and politics. I want people to understand that technology is not neutral. Technology is behind so much of the polarization and atomization of public life today, and technology itself won’t fix this. Only politics will.

Ivana Bartoletti, Guardian, 3 May 2023: Another warning about the AI apocalypse? I don’t buy it

Olga Murray on LinkedIn, 3 January 2023: ‘25 awesome books written by women’

Ivana Bartoletti for BBC World News, 29 March 2023: Government Barges In

Fiona Sharp, Independent Book Reviews, 21 June 2021: An Artificial Revolution

Burley Fisher Books, 25 November 2020: ‘Books of the Year 2020′

Alfie Rice for SODA, 11 November 2020: ‘An Interview with Ivana Bertoletti, Technical Director at Deloitte’

Oriana Medicott for Observer Research Foundation, 10 October 2020: ‘Modern democracy: Data, surveillance creep and more authoritarian regimes?’

Leading Edge Forum, 5 November 2020: ‘Technology is a distribution system for power: growing digital ethics in practice’

Intelligence Squared Podcast, 31 July 2020: ‘An Artificial Revolution, with Ivana Bartoletti and Yassmin Abdel-Magied’

DigiListen Podcast, 21 July 2020: ‘Tech Privacy and Ethics with Ivana Bartoletti’

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