Digitization, artificial intelligence, people & the future

With the 5G network expansion, the age of digitization and artificial intelligence (AI) is fast approaching. Some AI developers believe that humans will only play a “minor supporting role” in the dawning age of machines, or even become part of computer technology itself through biometric chips, nanotechnology or robotics.

  • Where will the journey go from here?
  • What societal challenges, risks or threats does this entail?
  • Will people actually remain human in the future or will they become cyborgs and, as individuals, be reduced to a number in an endless sea of ​​data?
  • What alternatives do we have?

This article aims to explore these and other related questions.

Technology – the new god

Technology is our new god. Civilization without them is no longer imaginable for us, even unthinkable. If all technology were switched off tomorrow, public life would remain silent, since electronics and data transfer have become our daily bread. At the same time, we live in the age of global hacker attacks, in which millions of data are already being stolen every day or lost in strange ways in the network of ever-growing amounts of data.

In the EU alone, damage of around 250 billion euros is caused annually, which can be attributed to data theft. From 2013 to 2017, this value even quintupled and by 2019, according to official estimates, it was four times as high.

Even then, despite this sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, the network expansion continues unabated, we close the last dead spots, we want to (be able to) control, record, measure and calculate everything via microchip or search engines and algorithms in the future.

And thanks to nanotechnology, quantum physics, chip technology and developments in related new fields, we are succeeding more and more.

Digitization permeates all areas of life

The main beneficiary of these developments is, of course, primarily the economy. It requires unbureaucratic, well-funded innovation fields for its real-time applications and would like to process these across the board with high-speed fields, as stated on the website of the Institute of German Economics, where people, machines and processes want to network with each other.

From Democracy to Technocracy

Today, we are witnessing more and more the transition from a democracy to a society of technocracy. It means that we will increasingly orient society, legislation and important social decisions towards economic and technological interests rather than towards human needs. Swapping the gross national product for gross domestic happiness like the small country of Bhutan is unthinkable for industrialized countries that focus on constant economic growth.

The stars as the next big goal

And with these new technologies, materials and computational powers, voyages to the stars are within reach, as well as buildings in or at the bottom of the oceans. For those who can afford it, of course. And so we are thinking about building spaceships up to a kilometer long in space tomorrow or sending millions of tiny nanoships to distant planets, which once arrived there, should assemble themselves into large robots and build cities for our imminent arrival . (Book tip: Michio Kaku: The Physics of the Future – Our Life in 100 Years. Rowohlt Verlag 2013)

Subdue the earth and the cosmos

It is no longer enough for us to own all the raw materials and country rows on earth, regardless of whether they are distributed fairly or not. We absolutely have to have more and more, because, although we constantly produce excess, at least in the technological world, and even throw away usable things every day, the stocks and resources are simply not enough. Cool calculations by people and machines displayed in colored 3D computer animations or real-looking holograms should or want to make it clear to us where our (material) lack lies.

And infected or perked up by these computer animations, we are already starting to buy or sell properties on the Moon, Mars, Venus, Saturn, Jupiter and all the planets in our solar system.

Individuals and corporations with the wherewithal are already taking part in large numbers,  even if we haven’t officially reached these planets yet, or will only be reached in 30−50 years. The magic or madness of what is technically possible has caught up with us as dreamy human beings.

Technical innovations and progress roll over one another

But what are 30 or 50 years compared to everything that has happened since the age of the steam engine:

  • Electricity,
  • the realm of the quanta,
  • computers, informatics
  • Electronics,
  • microchips,
  • and the resulting microscopically small and immeasurably large possibilities, potentials and developments that overwhelm us with innovations at breakneck speed.

What is modern today is already out tomorrow

What is modern today is unfashionable tomorrow and uncool or even antique the day after tomorrow. While the advertising drum beats and promises us the newest of the new and the military is perhaps already living 100 years ahead technologically.

After all, most of all technical innovations come from the military: computers, radio, cell phones, GPS…

If we look at one of the first computers with its gigantic dimensions and contemplative possibilities (see Fig. 1) and compare it with one from today that is smaller than a grain of rice, we see a huge difference. But also guess where all this will lead.

Der Colossus Mark II von Tommy Flowers (1905-1998) aus dem Jahr 1943

Fig. 1: The 1943 Colossus Mark II by Tommy Flowers (1905−1998). Source: Author unknown – This file is from the Collections of The National Archives (UK), cataloged under document entry FO850/234, in the public domain , https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=501979

The tangible meets the intangible

Today, the incomprehensible meets the tangible, the tiny small meets the gigantic, the unimaginable meets the worth considering, the sensible meets the perhaps soon nonsensical, spirit meets matter and science even meets God. With all the precise mechanisms of nature and all the mysteries that scientists are or will soon be extracting from it, it suddenly dawns on a clever mind and purely mathematical thinker, that the fine-tuning and balance with which everything exists can actually not be accidental or that God doesn’t roll dice, as one of these new schools of thought puts it, citing Albert Einstein.

In the middle of it all, there is the human being

With all the directions in which everything seems to be moving or developing at the same time, the human being sits in the middle and wonders where they will have their place in the future or what will still be reality in the future. But what is reality and what will be in the future is, while we are wondering, already being built on. Because even humans no longer seem good enough in a technocratic world and must be improved and optimized according to their highest ideal – technology – with the latest technology or tuned to the maximum like a car in the workshop.

A huge industry is ready for this, optimizing our body with artificial components, implants or biometric innovations such as microchips. Away from Homo Sapiens and towards Homo Optimus; a man-machine mixture, as Manon Baukhage describes in an article in the PM Journal in April 2007. (see fig. 2)

Medienbericht des P.M. Magazins zu technischen Optimierungsmöglichkeiten des Menschen

Fig. 2: Media report of the P.M. Magazine on technical optimization possibilities of humans (private archive M. Lindner)

The big goal: to bring artificial things to life

But optimizing the meat with technical refinements such as a brain chip that allows us to easily upload data or languages, open doors telepathically, etc. has long been old hat for the true futurists and developers of this technology scene, who also like to call themselves bio-hackers to name. Making artificial intelligence humane or even creating a superintelligence capable of thinking, feeling and creating like humans is the high goal worth living for. At least that’s what those who don’t find peace until they have realized it think so.

Consciousness: Local or Non-Local?

And so they duplicate neuron for neuron in order to finally transfer a complete human brain onto an immortal metal body on a day X, or believe that with this kind of research they will one day achieve immortality. For researchers who practice this kind of mind mapping, consciousness is local, which means it’s only found in the brain. And not non-local (not found in the body), as other researchers and scholars think or even have already proven. This takes us to the areas of fringe science, consciousness research, esotericism or religion. Based on this line of thought, a human being consists not only of body tissue, bones and brain, but also of spirit and soul. Spirit and soul travel to invisible spheres or spiritual planes of existence (heaven?) after death, which an inanimate metal body with a rationally cloned neuron brain is then probably not able to do. After all, it is merely a copy of human flesh and not a subtle entity like “spirit or soul” that is interwoven with the body by invisible energy cords.

At least I haven’t read or heard of any near-death experience where robots walked around “as it is on earth, so it is heaven.”

The brain and its possibilities – reduced to a chip?

And so we are very interested in the brain or the control center and commander of our body. Yes, we even hope that we will be able to break down all the knowledge and all the known and unknown potential of our brain and transfer it to a chip, as the first experiments and efforts in this direction show. The researchers ask themselves: How do I get the (knowledge of) the brain on a microchip?

Don’t stop progress!

But regardless of whether consciousness is local or not, technological advances – at least in the field of artificial intelligence – are constantly progressing. And one even strives to technically depict what people think or dream.

Knowledge is power

If you know what people are thinking, you can react to those thoughts. According to official reports, the new hype about digitization wants to do the following:

  • simplify operations,
  • create new (technical or digital) jobs,
  • ensure faster data transfer,
  • use budget more efficiently,
  • optimize products & service,
  • archive space-saving,
  • create user-friendly applications.

It’s not entirely clear to me how research into the digitization of the brain fits into this, but at least our development planners want us to spend as much of the day (24 hours) as possible online in the future.Even today jobs are already being digitized or replaced by AI, algorithms or robots, cash is being reduced and increasingly being switched to cashless, retail is being modulated to shopping on the Internet, while drones instead of human postmen deliver our parcels.

The future is digital!

So why go outside when you can work from home? The intelligent printer will automatically order new cartridges when they are empty, the refrigerator will notify you when it is empty and we only have to press the button to refill it to fill, money is automatically credited or debited and everything is so “convenient and safe”.

Digitization is the big market crier. And from the economy to the smallest trouser button, in the future everything should be linked to the digital networks or the big mother, the “Internet of Things (IoT)“. Unfortunately, this also comes with a whole range of negative aspects.

The dark side of digitization

1. Reduction from a three-dimensional to a two-dimensional existence

Actually, our three-dimensional world today, seen in a certain context, comes to an end with digitization and is reduced to a two-dimensional world that only moves back and forth virtually.

If you look around, you will find signs pointing in this direction everywhere:

  • There are platforms like Second Life where real people can lead a completely digital life (i.e. work there, make money, meet people) without having to step outside the door because they live in a metaverse. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, said this should be completely normal in the future.
  • Or can we just sit on a bench or on the train and count all the people who only look at their smartphones, a collective addiction. But smartphone or internet addiction and the reduction to a two-dimensional existence are not the only downsides of the increasingly widespread digitization.

2. Isolation and brutalization of society

In addition to digital contacts, a human hug is something completely different. Basically, digitization leads to more emotional loneliness. A care robot that is supposed to solve the skilled worker problem will never show as much human warmth as a human. But with digitization, human (physical) social contacts will decrease and society as a whole will become lonely or even neglected Studies show that children learn more effectively and get better grades when smartphones are banned in class. (Book tip: Manfred Spitzer: The smartphone epidemic. Klett-Cotta Verlag 2018)

3. People as a side issue / marginal phenomenon

Digitization is said to only bring advantages. This is probably also true for the economy, but in the age of machines, algorithms, microchips and robots, people themselves will only play a minor role. (Book recommendation: Erik Brynjolfsson/Andrew Mcafee: The Second Machine Age. Plassenverlag 2014)

This might lead to further problems. It remains questionable whether we will ever get used to the machines and whether this trend will prevail. Today’s polls showed that the majority of Germans would not want to live in a smart home, even if it were free.

4. Loss of job

A large number of simple or even higher jobs, from window cleaners to lawyers, have to fear that digitization will replace them with robots or algorithms (see Fig. 3).

Jobverluste durch Digitalisierung

Fig. 3. Job losses due to digitization. Image source: https://img.welt.de/img/wirtschaft/mobile173642208/6280246857-ci3x2l-w780/DWO-WI-Ersetzbarkeit-Qualification-mku-jpg.jpg

5. Loss of control

This could escalate to such an extent that the machines take over control after further development spurts towards digitization or that humans ultimately no longer play a role. It has the potential for a war of humans against machines or machines against humans. As the AI ​​developer and professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Max Tegmark describes in his book “Life 3.0 – Being human in the age of artificial intelligence” (Ullsteinverlag 2017).

6. Total dependence

A person who is completely woven into digital networks and dependent on them not only loses their freedom, but without network access (e.g. in the event of a power failure) even has to fear for their very existence. Society is not prepared at all for this, which is why, in the age of increasing possible global hacker attacks, governments are appealing for an emergency stockpile for possible blackouts.

7. Surveillance

A completely digitized system, which collects all possible data externally, enables a completely new dimension of surveillance for the economy, but also for legislation, the secret services and the police apparatus. There would literally be no escape.

8. Data Theft

This, in turn, allows hackers to live in a land of milk and honey where – as we have already seen – millions of pieces of data are already “lost” over the Internet every day.

9. Health Risks

The health risks, triggered by millimeter waves (5G networks) used for digitization, the long-term effects of which have not yet been researched, such as e-smog/cancer risk/burnout/psych. fears/problems …, which I have already written about in detail in other posts. The public discourse about the negative aspects mostly revolves around fears of job loss, etc.

What could we do?

In the modern age of digitization, we train our brains to constantly go online. It is a fact that people can no longer cope with themselves, as the covid pandemic is showing us in a painful way.

But these painful experiences can also shake us up and point us to a deficiency or a dependency on “looking for happiness outside” as a positive aspect. If we are addicted to social media, we would be painfully aware of it at any time, even through a global power outage that lasts for some time.

So maybe it would be wise for us to start training ourselves a bit, sometimes without being on the internet, or at least not being on the internet for a while. And rather:

  • go on holiday in dead spots,
  • meet real people instead of zooming or skyping,
  • get to know the power of your own mind instead of that of machines,
  • inspire others to do the same
  • be an artist
  • and spend more time with natural (kids/nature/animals…) rather than artificial things during the day.

This is how we train our brain to think in natural fields again, to which it is much better adapted. Which will greatly improve our sleep, health and intelligence. Just try it out for a few weeks. Because digitization may be desired and promoted from the outside, but ultimately we decide how much of it we bring into our lives and whether we become dependent on it and make ourselves dependent or not.

Which is why, while all the developments are fantastic and may arouse enthusiasm among technocrats or bodyhackers, the most fantastic thing of all is completely overlooked: the human being who creates it all in the first place or already has it within himself, as the super-gifted have long shown us.

Sincerely

Maik Lindner

References

 

 

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Maik Lindner

Maik Lindner

Maik Lindner, geb. 1968, beschäftigt sich seit 25 Jahren mit alternativen Entwicklungen und Tendenzen in Gesellschaft, Technik, Zukunft und Leben. Oder erforscht philosophische Gedanken zum Menschsein und seinen Potentialen. Er lebt im Großraum München, arbeitet im sozialen Bereich und schreibt Bücher zu verschiedenen Themen. Mehr Informationen unter: https://maik-lindner.jimdosite.com/

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