Once humans master the art of designing DNA (we already know how to design cells not found in Nature and edit DNA), they will create living beings of their own design. We also anticipate that when AI-machines master the art of learning from mistakes (i.e., the art of making conjectures and refuting them in a spiraling process towards better knowledge, a possibility that exists), they would have taught themselves how to handily beat humans in intelligent activities, and thereby break the human spirit.
The seeds of this were sown when the AI program called AlphaGo decisively defeated the world’s greatest Go players in 2016.67 AlphaGo has achieved what many scientific researchers dream of achieving in other branches of knowledge. It shows that a machine can teach itself in an immensely small fraction of the time it takes humans to explore ab initio any axiomatic system. The last bastion of human supremacy over all other creatures on Earth has been cracked by AI-machines. This is the world the millennials have stepped into. We have no idea how AI-machines may organize themselves into networks and network with humans. Will the future be written and created by humanoids with humans finding themselves relegated to footnotes and appendices once biotechnology and AI integrate?
Henry Kissinger notes:
Heretofore, the technological advance that most altered the course of modern history was the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, which allowed the search for empirical knowledge to supplant liturgical doctrine, and the Age of Reason to gradually supersede the Age of Religion. Individual insight and scientific knowledge replaced faith as the principal criterion of human consciousness. Information was stored and systematized in expanding libraries. The Age of Reason originated the thoughts and actions that shaped the contemporary world order.68
That world order now faces an upheaval where humans may be left to wonder what is their role in the Universe and what is the meaning of life if emotionless and faithless machines are destined to rule over humans? What is the role of God in human life if data and algorithms ungoverned by ethical or philosophical norms rule? When in ancient times, man created God in his own image, did he ever imagine that his God would be overthrown unceremoniously by another man-created invention, the AI-machine? That creating Homo sapiens was not God’s crowning glory but an intermediate
instrument for creating the Internet age and mock man for his emotions and naïve faith in irrational religion that promises only a fake afterlife.
Our search for meaning in life is now propelled by search engines roaming the Internet and not by our brain. The World Wide Web (WWW) has changed the way we think, what we think about, and how we communicate our thoughts. The millennials cognitive abilities are very different from those they were born with and weaned on before the Internet invaded their lives. They are shaped not just by what they read but how they read. Not only has their lifestyle changed but so has their thought style. All the work of the mind–deep thinking, exhaustive reading, deep analysis, introspection, etc.–is now delegated to AI-machines. Humans have thus relinquished their right to control their individual lives and direct their souls (maybe deep inside they already know there is no soul!). If machines can outdo humans so easily without a soul, then perhaps the soul is holding humans back from reaching their potential. Perhaps it is time, AI-machines became our role models and our mentors.
In the agriculture stage man was first, in the industrial stage man gave way to the engineered system, in the post-industrial stage the system is giving way to the AI-machine, which, in turn, is taking control of our intellectual lives. The Internet is now our efficient and automated collector, transmitter, and manipulator of information, guided by mathematical algorithms as defined by Alan Turing in 1936. The automated search engine was the first important step towards AI. The human brain is now seen
as a vastly outdated computer in need of a faster processor, a phenomenally larger hard drive, and a more efficient operating system in its next speciation. The highly stressed brain of the millennials will seek relief via evolutionary genetic mutations. The Homo sapiens neural net is about to evolve and with it will arrive one or more new species that improve upon the Homo sapiens.
Once Alan Turing69 showed that mathematical algorithms are mechanizable, Calude Shannon70 showed that information has a precise mathematical description, Rolf Landauer71 showed that information is physical and can only be harnessed and processed by the laws of physics, and David Deutsch72 showed that quantum computers can use quantum physics in ways classical computers operating under the laws of classical physics can never do, the spiritually-oriented human brain-mind system was on its way to obsolescence. The choice of silicon turned out to be better than gray matter, the choice of photon and electron turned out to be better than natural neurons for encoding and processing information. The time is approaching when human intelligence will humbly bow to AI which can solve real life problems within the authority of the laws of Nature rather than to God who cannot.
The Enlightenment sought to submit traditional verities to a liberated, analytic human reason. The internet’s purpose is to ratify knowledge through the accumulation and manipulation of ever-expanding data. Human cognition loses its personal character.73 Individuals turn into data, and data become regnant.74
5.2 Demographic displacements
There are more young people chasing too few quality jobs, especially in the less- and under-developed countries. Massive unemployment will lead to massive law-and-order problem. Apart from the uneven geographical rise in population, the migration pattern of gifted workers will decide the fate of poorer nations. A UN report projects that by 2050, the world’s population will approach 10 billion from the present 7.6 billion plus. Over half of the increase is expected to be in Africa:
Africa’s share of global population, which is expected to grow from roughly 17 percent in 2017 to around 26 percent in 2050, could reach 40 percent by 2100. At the same time, the share residing in Asia, currently estimated as 60 percent, is expected to fall to 54 percent in 2050 and 43 percent in 2100.75
While such projections maybe meaningless for a world in the throes of an AI-driven phase transition, the U.S. President Donald Trump is determined to recover lost ground and put America at the crest before the transition is over by his America First policy. As Janan Ganesh succinctly puts it:
Pax Americana is not the natural order of things. It is a phase born of the most extreme
circumstances. The US accounted for a third of the world’s output when it set up the Bretton Woods institutions, revived Japan and secured Europe … It now accounts for about 20 percent of global output. It does not have the wherewithal to underwrite the democratic world forever.76
Other leaders who fail to put their country first, may flounder. The war for talent has just begun. The services of talented minds will percolate through the IoT in trade bypassing immigration, cultural, and social barriers. Their physical movements when needed can be accommodated in tourist visas. The top talent in the world can organize themselves into a services trading community. This will soften the culture disruption faced by countries due to immigration and protect jobs for their citizens.
5.3 A brewing war between man and machine
In the early 20th century, the divinely created horse and horse power, were a source of pride, affluence, and motive power. Within 50 years man-made cars and tractors made the equine way of life obsolete. As demand for horses fell, so did horse prices, by about 80% between 1910 and 1950; they ceased to be a part of the workforce. In Hinduism, the horse is still a deemed mode of transport to heaven for a king if he sacrifices one. With kings going out of fashion, this mode of transport too has vanished. Now man-made robots are waiting in the wings to make the human way of life obsolete. What an irony–the march of civilization from spiritualism to materialism to robotism! By 2050, we should anticipate the existence of the superhero humanoid, part DNA scripted living matter and part AI scripted quantum computer, to roam the world, flexing their muscles and algorithms. As robots and robotics advance, humans look increasingly vulnerable. Not only are robots increasing in numbers, the range of tasks they excel in against humans too is increasing.77 No country has contingency plans to deal with jobless masses that will arise in global manufacturing and routine services. Even global businesses are clueless about the future, e.g., how will the customer base reshape with changes in buying habits and spending capacity or how will businesses relocate themselves on the ground and the Cloud for market share and profits. It turns out that
An overwhelming share of the growth in employment in rich economies over the past few decades has been in services, nearly half in low-paying fields like retailing and hospitality. Employment in such areas has been able to grow, in part, because of an abundance of cheap labour.78
[ 67 ] Gibney (2016, 2017).
[ 68 ] Kissinger (2018). See also: Carr (2008).
[ 69 ] Turing (1936).
[ 70 ] Shannon (1948).
[ 71 ] Landauer (1961).
[ 72 ] Deutsch (1985).
[ 73 ] Carr (2008).
[ 74 ] Kissinger (2018). See also Carr (2008).
[ 75 ] UN-ESA (2017).
[ 76 ] Ganesh (2018).
[ 77 ] See, e.g., Acemoglu & Restrepo (2016).
[ 78 ] Economist (20170401).