”The danger is that if we invest too much in developing Al and too little in developing human consciousness, the very sophisticated artificial intelligence of computers might only serve to empower the natural stupidity of humans.” – Yuval Noah Harari
As I read this comment by Harari, it made me reflect on the various Fellowships run by Aspen Institute / Ananta Centre – and their criticality and impact in shaping our world. Preserving our humanity is essential to our survival.
As we hurtle towards the vortex of AI, we are caught in rightful debates about taking a development ‘pause’, creating regulatory frameworks and instituting checks and balances around it. And yet, I doubt anyone truly believes we can slowdown (let alone contain) any technological advancement.
Maybe the core debate we really ought to be having is this: what is it about our humanity that we really ought to be strengthening or preserving – that which we wish to pass on to our future generations? As mentioned by a character in The Portable Phonograph (a poignant piece by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, that forms part of our Aspen/Ananta Fellowship readings): “When I perceived what was happening, I told myself, it is the end. I cannot take much. I have saved what I love, the soul of what was good in us here.”
And so what is this soul (or human consciousness that Harari mentions) that demands vigorous preservation? It is our ability to be compassionate, the love of a mother for her baby, the richness of Tagore’s poetry, the wisdom of Aristotle and Confucius’ words, the magic of Tchaikovsky’s music, the qualities of Mandela and Gandhi. These constitute the essence and crucible of human consciousness. It is what our Aspen/Ananta Fellowship partakes richly from – to nurture new generations of leaders that seek to make a better world around them. And if we have enough of these minds and leaders, we have little to fear from technology.