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Excerpts from Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Power by Rajiv Malhotra

SELF-DEFEATING HUMANISM

Humanism posits that absolute truth does not exist independently of what humans have constructed. What we think of as the meaning and purpose of life is actually a set of shared narratives consisting of stories, metaphysics, laws, cultures, and so on. Such traditions enjoy a public consensus, providing a social and ideological contract among peoples, and this serves as the foundation on which society functions. In other words, all grand narratives are collectively manufactured stories with a practical purpose: to provide us with meaning in what we do. They are the glue, even if at times the crazy glue, that holds society together.

…The core myth that characterizes liberalism is this: There is no transcendental intelligence, and we must be guided by the human-centric starting point. Humans possess free will, and this free will must be accorded the highest empowerment. Liberal politics empower the voter. Liberal economics empower the customer. Liberal aesthetics empower people to define their own ideas of beauty. Liberal ethics entitle everyone to pursue happiness, however they define it. Liberal education empowers free thought. Modern science and technology are built on the liberal premise of humankind’s rights and powers over the cosmos.

Ironically, AI is on the course to overthrow liberalism and its substratum, humanism. Yet this new AI technology is itself a creation of humanism through the following process:

  1. The rubric of humanism assumes that the cosmos has the meaning and purpose people have assigned to it. In other words, meaning and purpose are whatever we all accept by broad consensus.
  2. Liberalism’s pursuit of human empowerment has taken us to new heights of scientific and technological achievement.
  3. These very advances are now manipulating us to become increasingly dependent on machines to deliver longer lifespans, physical and cognitive pleasures, and a sense of unlimited power through the technological conquest of nature.
  4. Such machine domination can only occur at the cost of disempowering ordinary humans. The biggest casualty is free will, the very core of liberalism. Smart machines, owned and controlled by a small number of individuals and business entities, will manage more and more of society’s functions. Humans voluntarily give up their free will as machines become smarter and take over their thought and agency.
  5. Downgrading the importance of the individual amounts to humanism’s ideological defeat by its own products.

In other words, the products of humanism are defeating the myth of humanism.

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