This is a raw transcript of our weekly broadcast of One Mountain, Many Paths. In this episode, Dr. Marc Gafni reveals the De-Humanizing creep of Machine Intelligence as existential risk: what it means to be a human being won't be available to most of humanity.
There are two forms of existential risk.
One form of existential risk comes from objective factors, which are various forms of either disaster or interior social dynamics that work in a particular way. So a disaster would be for example - a nuclear device going off, pandemics gone wild or certain forms of climate change if they play in a particular way.
Another example within this first form of existential risk, has to do with what we’ve called the “rivalrous conflict” that defines reality. We live in a story, which is a story of rivalrous conflict. The rivalrous conflict is governed by a win/lose metrics. That drives the extraction model from Earth in which we take out from birth what it took billions of years to create, critical resource, but it also drives the exponential growth curves and it creates a vast, fragile system, which by its very nature is self-terminating.
These are different subsets of the first form. This first form of existential risk to humanity is that humanity will disappear because systems will collapse or we’re going to somehow wipe ourselves out based on any of the scenarios, which I just briefly alluded to now.
Second form of existential risk
The second form of existential risk is not the death ‘of humanity’ but the death of ‘our humanity.’ It is not that humanity’s going to get destroyed by one of these factors that I’ve described, but actually we’ll stop being human.
The existential risk to humanity is that in some fundamental way we’ll stop being human.
That what it means to be a human being won’t be available to most of humanity.
That’s an entirely new form of existential risk. It’s not existential risk to humanity because something’s going to happen to us; it’s rather what I would call an "annexation of humanity creep." It’s this gradual creep in that it’s gradually, incrementally embracing us.
The Gradual Creep Of De-Humanization Through Machine Intelligence
I’m going to give you just one example. You’re 35 years old, you can’t disconnect from your iPhone. You feel actually nervous and filled with anxiety disconnecting from your device. That’s already the beginning of your dehumanization.
You’re no longer a human being; you and your device are actually one. Then you go from holdables – you’re holding your device – to wearables. Wearables is when you wear either a biometric sensor on the outside, or a biometric sensor on the inside, in which we actually begin to track everything.
These biometric sensors combine with your smartphone and your smart thermostat and your smart bed. That is called, “the Internet of Things” - where the goal is to become seamless - what is called “Ubiquitous Computing.”
One of the ways the "Internet of Things" is actually infiltrating society is through digital assistants. What happens is your digital assistant, or your biometric sensor, or your smart appliances, or your WhatsApp, all record data. They record everything you do. All of the data is sent to a central, organized system, which is driven by and animated by machine intelligence, which then analyses not just what you did, not just which website you visited – that’s nothing - it’s actually able to analyze your mood, how you feel, what your likes are, what your dislikes are, what your preferences are.
It begins to know you in many ways better than you know yourself, at least in terms of being able to manipulate your action.
Everything you do from how long your mouse hovers to how you punctuate… to all of the verbal communication recorded by your various smart devices and your Digital assistant Alexa - it is all recorded and then fed into this machine intelligence process. This machine intelligence process then develops a personality profile on you. Then you begin to receive nudges just beyond the edge of your awareness to invite you here and to invite you there, purchase this or purchase that, check out this website or that one. Then it begins to suggest voting possibilities.
This nudging of action in all sort of subtle ways is carefully tested by machine learning driven tech platforms, that learn based on vast swaths of data how to manipulate your decisions - not for your own sake but for the sake of agendas that you are not even aware are in play.
A human being becomes a “cog” – a computational, digital object to be moved and manipulated for "the greater social good.” Of course the greater social good is determined by the tech platform heads themselves who directly profit their capacity to sell predictive analysis on how you will respond to targeted adds to third parties who have no interest in your greater good. And everyone smiles.
The entire enterprise of social media, the entire enterprise of the web, that we’re all plugged into – that is defining us and even more so our children and grandchildren – is becoming a mechanized, machine intelligence hive-like world. It is, imperceptibly to the average observer, functioning more and more like digital dictatorship, "herding and tuning” people to create an effective social hive, in which everyone is following the rules of acceptable behavior.
We’re are headed towards becoming a worldwide technocracy mediated by the web in which "anomalies" [meaning people acting out of turn with “acceptable behavior”] are actually monitored, rewarded and punished.
Technology is Not the Devil
All of this is not happening because there’s a bunch of obvious bad actors. It’s happening because within culture today there is no answer to the question of, Who am I and who are we together?
Our essential humanity depends on us having a self-understanding.
The assumption of the web designers - think folks like Alex Pentland at MIT - is that society has made a mistake in defining the human being as a separate self. In their attempt to correct this ostensible mistake they define the human being a social self to be controlled, herded and tuned by social pressure. They are absolutely right in their critique of separate self as a false description of the human self. But the only alternative they can conceptualize is the social self.
The distinctions of True Self, Unique Self and what we call Unique Self Symphony and Eros are not even on the table. If they were the assumption behind all of the coding of the web would change.
For those unfamiliar with this core distinction see Dr. Marc Gafni, Your Unique Self, chapter four.
We have got to actually articulate these source code structures and then deploy them in culture. If Unique Self and Unique Self Symphony were available as a model, then we could actually program in an entirely different way.
It’s only by changing the story that actually we change the interior source code of reality and we actually begin to develop the common will – a shared global coherence and global will – to address the global issues that face us.
- Dr. Marc Gafni [This blogpost is almost all direct quotes from Dr. Marc Gafni collected from the raw transcript of the featured clip below, which is created from the free weekly broadcast of One Mountain, Many Paths, happening live every Sunday at 10 am PT]
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