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IT'S DANGEROUS TO BE OBSOLETE

October 23, 2018

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex ... but it takes [...] a lot of courage to go the other way." - Albert Einstein

 

The phrase that illustrates the title above is on the book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, written by the guy who decided to scare everyone: Yuval Noah Harari. "The emergence of AI can extinguish the economic value and political strength of most humans," said the historian. For him, the rise of technology in the areas of bioengineering and artificial intelligence could together result in the division of humanity into a small class of super-humans and a massive subclass of useless Homo sapiens.

 

In a possible future scenario, where much of the work will be done by machines, which do not actually receive for what they do, and do not demand labor rights, it will possibly affect the economic and political situation of the flesh-and-blood workers, people who need laws and rights to live in society. However, once this relevance is lost, the state could also lose interest in investing in their health, education and social well-being. The passion that connects us to machines may be the reason we will become obsolete.

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

 

For many wealthy families this question may still make sense. But for many who live in precarious conditions, with no hopes, perhaps, rather than trying to teach ways of economic emancipation, it would be better to prepare them to use a weapon. Of course I am just wondering, but we need to think about it. Rich families will be able to pay for their children to learn what will be best for them, and to change direction and adapt more easily if necessary. Poor families can barely eat. The most adaptation they can often do is place the beans over or under the rice.

 

It seems too gloomy, but it's nothing different from what it's always been.

 

As far as we know, there is a few in command and a crowd obeying. The king and the hyena, the lion and the court jester, the bourgeois and the plebs, the predators and the herd. Finally, in the case of the sapiens, we premeditate our acts; we create and manipulate systems against and in favor, depending on the rules of the game, and the sets of interests. And, today, knowledge is the most powerful weapon, the most valuable currency. We are putting lenses and sensors in every corner of the world; in cars, corners, on and under the skin of people, and wherever is possible.

 

The power to predict human attitudes is the Holy Grail. Who would not want to know exactly if it's going to rain or not, or what paper will go up on the stock market, or, who knows, which product will sell the most? Better, who will people vote for?

 

This power enchants and seduces; whoever has it will rule the world.

 

According to Stephen Hawking, we always long to understand the underlying order of the world. For him we still long to know why we are here and where we came from. "The deep desire of humanity for knowledge is sufficient justification for our continuous search," he argues. But at what cost? Husbands and wives would give anything to know what goes on in their partners' heads. And, listen to me, companies and governments around the world as well. This information is invaluable. And with the evolution of digital technologies, we can do more than suggest thoughts, but dictate what you can and should do.

 

We've already given Google and the many algorithms the authority to tell us the best decision. Over time, it will be almost impossible to decide something without asking an electronic device if we are on the right track.

 

 

After watch Emilie Wapnick at TEDxBend, I began to think about how this bitter and gloomy scenario will be for most people who have not yet fully understood their role in life. She interestingly speaks of the theory of the Multipotentialite, people with several potentials and, most of the time, with none of them truly well defined or developed. People with a lot of anxiety; trying everything, following various possibilities, going deep into what unleashes an uncontrollable passion and, at some point, when the fire is extinguished and boredom accumulates, his eyes are taken in another direction. There they go again, in search of something new to keep their heart beating at the right speed: as much as possible. The mind almost explodes.

 

Of course, not everyone is Multipotentialite, as Wapnick calls the anxious ones who own a bunch of poorly developed talents. The multitalented ones are beings with an above average curiosity, with spectacular creative gifts, full of energy and desire to transform the universe around them. But they live in a world that insists on making them experts in something. Yes, frustration. As children, they ask us what we want to be in the future, but most of the time it is to laugh at the funny answers we give. There seems to be enough time left to decide on this in schools that will hardly be sensitive to offer opportunities to harmonize the many talents that some have.

Is it dangerous to be obsolete?

 

Of course! No doubt. But the most important question would be: what is it to be obsolete?

 

Paul Bloom, in another talk on TED, talks about The Origins of Pleasure. Interesting to see how the value of things varies according to their level of originality and their history. Works of art have exorbitant values if they are conferred attributes that make them unique. Telephone brands, soft drinks, cars and wines, for example, are more expensive than others because there are stories very well told by the advertising agencies that sell them. A pen might only cost a few dollars, but a pen that signed the United States declaration of independence changes everything. Until you found out there were no pens at that time.

And what does all this have to do with the unsuccessful talented and the impending apocalypse that will make us obsolete?

Good question!

 

Not everyone will be able to overcome the challenges that will inevitably plague the world very soon. There will be walls separating the "good" from the "bad." Whether they are physical or social, it does not matter. What really matters is learning to deal with our own emotional limitations. Multitalented learners connecting their multiple potentials in order to build healthier creative processes, allied to those who are more comfortable nurturing a talent only, but in a deep and dedicated way. This union can give strength to stable creations, full of possibilities, since those involved did not bother to test all possible connections. So there is less anxiety, perhaps. Not less machines, but increasingly humanized devices, undertaking within a universe in which shared knowledge is used to make our lives better and better.

 

As technology threatens us with obsolescence, something happens. This anxiety moves us in the direction of the problem. This time, it will take a bigger leap, more dangerous and without much certainty of the final result. However, we must go in search of "true calling", as Emilie Wapnick says, even without any certainty if we are going in the right direction, because we do not yet have an electronic device capable of answering the questions that haunt us every day; but we have hearts and brains driven by electrical impulses, not so different from the machines that frighten us so much.

 

 

 

 

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