Debate: Between uncertainty and single thought, discernment in the face of digital arrogance

Should uncertainty as an approach to the reality to come make us deaf, blind, insensitive and passive? No… ! The acceleration of digitization process, robotization, development of artificial intelligence in many sectors of activity around the world should it overwhelm us? No !

Ddo we forget that we are also responsible for the future of "our humanity"? Today we are faced with the will to supremacy and control technoscientific and social of ultra-powerful groups in the name of a unique and imposed vision of progress and intelligence.

The challenges we face are anthropological, ethical and social for all of humanity and not for a handful of financiers and elites in the digital world ...

A study conducted by the University of Oxford in 2013 (Carl Frey and Michael Osborne) highlighted the prospect of job losses due to technological transformations estimated between 45 and 60% within the European Union. For France, we are talking about 50%… McKinsey in 2016 also recently carried out a study on the subject which announced the disappearance of 45% of human activity with the development of AI.

Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk founder of Tesla and Space X believe that artificial intelligence poses a threat to humanity. Stephen Hawking says:

“Succeeding in creating artificial intelligence would be the biggest event in human history, but it could also be the last […] The short-term impact of artificial intelligence depends on who controls it. And, in the long term, to know if it can be ”

The Pew Research Center ("AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs" by Aaron Smith and Janna Anderson), who interviewed 2 experts in the field of new technologies in 000, evokes the biases of these actors. The apostles of automation / robotization as a benefit for humanity present the techno-scientific revolution as a new opportunity for creation, by evoking that certain professions will not disappear ... but no details have been provided on the different forms of professions in Questions.

We note that the speech is reassuring and still remains fairly evasive, globalizing and not giving any real value-added clues on these potential opportunities for the future. Other points of view alert us to the consequences of uncertainty ... and draw attention to the fact that the race for automation in different forms of robotization is necessarily in favor of this one compared to properly human work. .

A different path on the disappearance and creation of new professions expresses quite well the absence of reflection between potential opportunities and inevitable consequences ... Finally, certain actors are all the same aware of the strategic importance of the political choices to be implemented to avoid a massive disappearance of jobs and of properly human intelligence. However, to date, little in-depth “official” reflection of this type has really been initiated by political decision-makers, who follow the global movement without questioning it.

The political choice ... and the weight of the conception of Progress

The "political" choice is already largely biased, even exceeded by the influence of those who have the technoscientific and financial power ... The ideology of Progress has always conveyed the idea that tomorrow would be better than yesterday. To the representation of progress is added that of a sort of continuous line of time and history ...

The basic belief: "The whole mass of mankind always walks to greater perfection" (Condorcet) is at work.

Can we still speak of perfection? Theories of progress imply a linear view of the evolution of mankind, and present the "new" as always being the best. The notion of progress includes the idea of ​​an endless development of human power. The great man that Condorcet was on many scientific, political, social levels largely and generously contributed to giving meaning to the idea of ​​progress in a very enriching way for his time and yet this vision can lead to blindness to our alleged whole. power. In his work Sketch of a historical picture of the progress of the human mind (1795) Condorcet wrote:

“Freedom, equality, good laws have the necessary effect of increasing public prosperity by increasing the means of acting […] From this prosperity are born the habit of new needs and an increase in population. So if prosperity does not increase ceaselessly, society falls into a state of suffering ... if new lights do not come to offer more powerful ones, the very progress of society becomes the causes of its ruin. Let us suppose that these means are found and employed, the result in society of new combinations, which neither the laws nor the institutions have been able to foresee…. "

The theory of progress is itself linked to the classical economist theories of the XNUMXth century.e century, Adam Smith, Bernard Mandeville, David Hume rehabilitate the strength of the insatiable appetite of human desire: the needs of man, according to them, are always likely to be growing. It seems to be in the very nature of man to always want more, more and to act accordingly, constantly seeking throughout all eras to optimize his interests. Thus very great thinkers since the eighteenthe century have propagated the absolute necessity of progress as the engine of humanity ... we will always know more, so everything will always get better. The past always fades in the face of the present, the present helps propel the idea of ​​the future. Progress is both thought of first and foremost as the result of evolution, and also becomes the principle of this evolution ...

In the nineteenthe century the idea of ​​progress is at the height of its success. It is the reign of science. It guides the creation of a humanity itself organized in a scientific way. Utopian socialists propose a new social vision. This point of view will be called into question following the two world wars and the appearance of the destructive totalitarianisms put in place. The idea of ​​progress must be disseminated because it carries that of civilization. The idea of ​​progress is also linked to the idea of ​​supremacy and corresponds to the expansion of colonialism in the West.

The dark side of an abusive generalization

In 1999 Peter Sloterdijk, German philosopher wrote a very provocative book: "Rules for the human park". This book elicited a lot of reactions. Some very negative and others on the contrary very positive. The so-called civilized society would be a human park run by elites who are herdsmen. For the author, humanism was born from writing and was disseminated through books and literature. The books being condemned by the mass media to a programmed death, humanism is condemned to disappear ... The author suggests that the elites must train the herds by new techniques, which he calls "anthropotechnical" capable of making a selection. of a species more able to live in society, because the book, the major tool of Humanism, has disappeared ... This approach has the merit of raising the question of a whole ideology in operation for a certain time which leads to the current of the post-human.

If we look today at the nature of major projects in technological innovation, artificial intelligence, genetics, the phenomenal enthusiasm for robotics throughout the world, we can rightly ask ourselves a number of questions.

The old dream of increasing human capacities: intelligence, strength, power has crossed the history of Greek mythology to new technologies. It is present today, it takes other forms, much more real and active in our society, cyber society, ultra connected!

Very large scientific institutions of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) type of public and private technology in large countries: USA, Japan, China, Russia, France, Germany, etc. are on very heavy projects that can be described as "type" transhumanist ”. Because, indeed, their objective is to make man more intelligent and more powerful by constantly transforming his cognitive and mental capacities, by practicing extensions of his memory and by eradicating all emotion ... The cyborg concept : interfacing between the biological and the human is at the heart of the debates and projects of a large number of research projects. Many works on artificial intelligence and nanotechnologies have this cyborg-type objective in common, beyond this aim, another intention is in the process of development, the uploading. Or downloading a file… this is about mapping the neural connections of an individual which will be uploaded to a computer or a robot. The recorded consciousness could thus be implanted in a new body, that of a robot, or in a virtual body… a consciousness that has become software could then undergo all kinds of interventions and therefore also alterations.

In 1997, Sasha Chilensko, a now deceased artificial intelligence researcher, wrote:

"In a true post-human future, identities may completely dissolve, and the world may appear as a fusion of super-liquid economy and distributed artificial intelligence "...

The idea of ​​a supra-brain capable of transcending human imperfections is present in many writings of authors who come from the world of technology, especially computer science.

Marvin Minsky died in 2016 was the co-founder of the IA group of MIT is one of the prestigious leaders of this transhumanist approach. Vernon Vinge is at the origin of the concept of technological singularity, Ray Kurzweil, the inventor of synthesizers, has produced artificial intelligence systems for voice and shape recognition is one of the most fervent spokespersons of the transhumanist thesis .

An Australian company is developing a headset for video games that can sense gamers' intentions and control action through thought. The geniuses of Silicon Valley are inventing a future without soul and without historicity (read the article by Gaspard Koenig “We don't want to be algorithmic flesh! " in Les Echos) These great brains have helped to influence a form of thought and ideology today. The great successes of personalities like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have become indisputable and revered references, the new gods of the XXe and XXIe century ... at the same time these last two have chosen to put their children in schools devoid of all technological innovations! ..

The era of big data, of learning by increasingly sophisticated computer systems, gradually leads us to think about our social and human relationships through increasingly complex machines that directly or indirectly shape our own way of doing things. work, think, communicate. We are gradually reducing everything that may seem to be superfluous, non-efficient, non-programmable, non-global ...

The dematerialization of all information transmission processes eliminates thousands of opportunities for living communication… from service professions. Dematerialization should be thought of after relevant diagnoses in the service of the efficiency and collaborative intelligence of work ...

The big data standard format company is not a shadow of a doubt for many players who are fans of MIT mathematicians or mathematicians or computer scientists themselves. This business model is presented as the only possible and unavoidable one. The supra-rationality of decisions by data is considered the model of productive and financial performance and does not suffer from any discussion, according to Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson. The leader will be a data analyst or will not be… Is this a sufficient ambition and so innovative?

What about an approach based on the capacity for initiative, the intrinsic values ​​of an organization and the mobilization of intuition and creativity to develop strategic orientations? How to keep the real autonomy of active thought?

Another question rarely raised and yet fundamental in this XXIe century is that of the extremely high energy cost of a society totally dependent on technology… which is illustrated with the projects of cities entirely created by designers and piloted by a central digital “brain”…

Think and act differently

Some options:

  • Let's develop fantastic opportunities to diversify forms of intelligence, work and learning without being trapped by our virtual relationships
  • Let us open up access to more knowledge that is really lived, understood from within, experienced, shared. Digitalized processes can indeed make it possible to create optimizations of flow and time, opportunities for rapid exchanges and interesting monitoring methods. The digitization of education is a tool for democratizing the dissemination and sharing of knowledge, it is less a tool for living experimentation. Is being informed learning and understanding? To know is to think?
  • Learning is also a matter of social ties that develop in real time, of sharing representations, experiences, emotions, and empathy with others. Are we really reducing knowledge inequalities with new technologies? Isn't there a dropout from learning via a MOOC? To find, to compile information as quickly as possible, is to develop a deep and exhaustive understanding?
  • Dialogue with others via interactive systems, video, social networks, platforms and other interactive tools is it enough to capitalize, live, model each other's experiences? Installing robots in hospitals and retirement homes, is this the optimal solution to meet public health needs and break the loneliness of the 3e and 4e age ? Certainly "progress" in terms of technology in the service of medicine is useful insofar as it is a question of continuing to treat and heal ...
  • Our ability to relate emotionally to one another is what characterizes us first and foremost as a human.

Perhaps we could take a step back to understand and think about the already very real harmful impacts produced by a technological culture with devouring ambitions. We must learn to think differently about organizational changes rather than submitting to them without imagination. We must choose, master technological transformations by giving them a meaning, and out of fears and threats.

  • Let us leave space for the development of new links, new approaches to social and economic relations. If innovation was also to strengthen our ability to bounce back together collectively and in a more human way to these issues without taking the unique path offered by technologies, knowing how to use them and control them wisely? Let's learn to stay in control of our ambitions by questioning them regularly.
  • Let us keep the best of technical innovations by controlling them in their intentions by the clarity, the accuracy of our intentions, let us learn to regulate, slow down the temporalities more linked to the search for supremacy as regards the tangibility of the orientations taken.

There is still time to promote the diversity of “intrinsically human” forms of intelligence and let us give humanity a chance to live up to the moral height of the risks already taken… If we also promoted our intrinsic strengths: the respect, benevolence, the strength of proximity, to create opportunities by using technologies as means at the service of humanly viable and previously identified ends, at the service of living beings. New leaders will need to strengthen their emotional and intuitive capacity and take a step back from metric-only approaches.

What if we developed all our forms of relational, emotional, aesthetic, compassionate, as well as pragmatic, analytical, technological and technical intelligence?

The will displayed to want to overvalue logical and analytical intelligence is a danger for our societal balance and the survival of the properly human dimension of the species. Rebalais' "science without conscience, ruin of the soul" is deeply topical.

“The danger is not in the machines, otherwise we should have this absurd dream of destroying them by force, like the iconoclasts who, by shattering images, flattered themselves that they also destroy beliefs. The danger is not in the multiplication of machines, but in the ever-increasing number of men accustomed, from their childhood, to wanting only what machines can give. " Georges Bernanos

Marie-Josee Bernard, Professor in Management - Leadership - Human Development, EM Lyon

La original version of this article was posted on The Conversation.

Image credit: GLAS-8 on Visual Hunt / CC

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