We can no longer just keep on going. We must begin something new. To make a plan knowing upfront that the risk is that things may not be clear, and may even seem impossible. This is the moment to recall Lacan’s formula, “The real is impossible.” To centralize a discussion of the impossible as a mode of subjective causation. It is not enough to criticize, to deny, to resist. Our task is to affirm a new beginning.
We never build statues to worship the exceptional life. The veneration of heroes focuses on pioneering exercises of reason, capabilities, and perception. The canvases of Francis Bacon, the Satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi, the physics of Albert Einstein, and the kinaesthetic intelligence of Peter London from Trinidad who was recruited by Martha Graham to be a principal dancer alongside Mikhail Baryshnikov and Denise Vales, have changed the world.
These celebrated individuals embody a spectrum of human multiple intelligences. Their works exemplify the pinnacle of the human spirit across eras and societies. They embody human achievement and uniqueness. The search can never be for what Derek Walcott has in common with the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, or the Irishman Seamus Heaney. The search is always for what separates a thing from all others. What makes it inimitable.
We now live in a moment where we have enlisted AI as an adjunct to our perceptions and our thoughts. In the Ages of Reason and Religion that preceded AI, we carefully positioned ourselves at the centre of the story. We have embraced our perfect imperfections. And with nervousness, we wish to continue to buttress our view that human capabilities constitute a zenith of what mortal beings can hope to achieve. But AI is changing our outlook.
With the rise of AI, human aspirations, our roles, self-worth, and feelings of fulfilment will change. What human capabilities will the Age of AI celebrate? In the Age of AI, reality will be approximated, simulated, and predicted. Will these subtle changes alter and even enlarge the role of human reasoned agency? Which unfreedoms will AI remove?
Already the human feels tangential to a decision by a car navigation system to change lanes or the route. Platforms may extend or deny credit to a person based on an AI review. At the university, AIs may make a discovery faster than the multidisciplinary cross-border research team. This is a challenge for humans who for decades have become accustomed to agency, centrality, and a monopoly on intelligence.
AI will disrupt, and challenge our self-worth, self-concept, and self-perception. Alienation will surge as AI changes the way we interact with the world, how we see ourselves, and what will be our role in making our possible worlds using our actual minds. AI will forecast the weather, discover new drugs, highlight and filter information for Open Finance, generate designs for fashion collections, and write project management emails and reports automatically.
As AI models adapt, and others evolve into Darwinian species that serve tailored purposes, AI will cause humans to alter their perceptions of both the uniqueness and relative value of human proficiencies, and talents. AI and Network Platforms now subtly perform many tasks that were once managed by human minds. Humans hardly think about the legal status of the “clickwrap” and “browsewrap” agreements they enter into while shopping online.
The interaction between man and machine is blurry and nuanced, as we focus on user experiences and use cases to design and deliver public services that are agile, accurate, and fast. Smart contracts already automatically execute, control, or document actions according to the terms of an agreement using transaction protocols. The ground beneath our feet is shifting. Standing still is not a choice.
For nation-states, Network Platforms and AI now constitute a key aspect of international strategy. But governments do not create, operate or curate Network Platforms. The actions of innovators, citizen developers, angel financiers, corporations, government incentives, and regulators provide an unpredictable and strategic arena.
Many platform operators eschew state involvement and prefer that the role of the state is to stay out of the way as they see their interests as nonnational.
Network Platforms can shape a country’s industrial, economic, cultural, and political development. For these reasons, governments are weary of systems that may edge out home-grown models giving a foreign country unsolicited influence in domestic affairs. Other Network Platforms are seen as potential or de facto extensions of the policy objectives of rival states.
Platforms like Yandex have little international appeal and act as a fallback to the dominant providers, not as a substantial economic challenger. Some countries have produced few savvy digital products, and services with domestic or global consumer appeal. But they have formidable cyber capabilities beyond their borders.
New trade blocks are coalescing around clusters of technologically compatible nations that are meshed into a green and digital bridge across continents and civilisations using fibre optic cables.
This has nurtured a multidisciplinary contest for technological primacy, economic advantage, digital security, and ethical and social objectives. And as it unravels, no one has decided on the rules of the tournament, and the nature of the contest remains opaque.