There has not been stagnation since then, and I certainly could only get back into the field with a significant effort.
Today, we have several things that made the emergence of large language models and other versions of AI possible, not least the availability of a large body of text to train them on.
I remember when cohorts of students formulated rules for rule-based knowledge systems, and now, AI teaches itself on readily available data.
Right behind it, embodied AI in the form of robots is only lagging due to the challenge’s higher complexity.
But what does that mean?
A lot of work that humans do can be done with AI. The range is impressive.
Do you need a complicated contract from a lawyer? The bylaws for a church? A press release for a new product? Ways to fold certain amino acids? An algorithm to calculate something? A deep fake video? A translation of your book into German? Who do you call? Human work busters, formerly called AI.
But what does that mean?
Capitalism is the predominant worldview in the West that captured the whole world. It consists basically of two forces or primary resources: capital and labor.
Erich Weinstein points out that this motivational program gives people some meaning and a reason to get up in the morning without needing a dictator. We exchange capital for our labor.
Capital is motivated to pay for labor in return for gain. This points to one problem of the model, as it has baked into itself the need for perpetual growth.
It also falls short, as there are costs the model of capitalism externalizes, namely the cost of extraction of natural resources and recycling of products, that make the system unsustainable.
But there is a more imminent threat to the system, as we can still go on for a while if the only problems are the destruction of our habitat due to perpetual growth facilitated by not paying for the consequences.
AI just erased labor from the equation.
We are not quite there yet, but progress in this field is fast and speeding up at rates we cannot imagine.
Soon, human labor will be voluntary and mostly delegated to AI and robots. Even if we cannot delegate all labor, a large cohort of people will be out of their job. And not everybody is an artist or able to work in care.
Capital will no longer depend on human labor to accomplish gain soon.
Erich Weinstein again points to the fact that we should already be in the midst of discussing the next form of economy. I would say, even the next world we are going to build.
Alasdair MacIntyre reminds us that
I can only answer the question “What am I to do?” if I can answer the prior question “Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?”
Capitalism has two major stories:
- I go to work for a living
- I send my capital to work for me for a living
Captain Picard has another story.
- We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity
This is a steep hill to climb within a short time, and there might be a few intermediary steps and supporting tools necessary on the way.
But we will never leap if we do not start talking about the story and the transition. Maybe, the ideal story we will formulate is different–who wants to believe that Gene Roddenberry discovered the future already?
Kazimierz Dabrowski describes a path for personal development called positive disintegration (TPD). It resembles the change process of Spiral Dynamics (SD) that describes the evolution of consciousness in groups and societies. I will use language along the lines of TPD and SD to describe where we are as humanity.
For a long time, we have been in primary integration. Our instincts and environment have proven we found the right way to live. Just listen to most arguments for capitalism, sounding something like “no other worldview has lifted so many people out of poverty.”
Our children grow up to live in that system. Look at the school system, for example.
The Prussians constructed our school system at a time when they lost their military supremacy. It was consciously set up to produce mindless obedient soldiers.
This is why teaching is from the front, the desks are in line, and there are bells. This is why we divide students according to age and teach them the same stuff using the same methods.
In the US and the UK, and later all over the world, the school system has been used to produce mindless obedient factory workers, people willing and capable of providing labor to capital.
What now, that these laborers soon are not needed any longer? And even are not available any longer?
In the West, there is a shortage of skilled workers. Western countries have drawn from other countries for ages to fill their need for skilled workers and accepted the brain drain in these other countries.
Switzerland recruited doctors and nurses in Germany, and they, in turn, in Poland. A few days ago, Germany announced a program with Brazil to move their young people to Germany and educate them as nurses, hoping they would stay in Germany. Switzerland is looking to Africa for supply.
This would be funny if it were not such a terrible thing to do. I am not using the word lightly, but could this be a new form of colonialism? Draining other countries of human resources this time, only to sustain the unsustainable?
But even more than that, the lack of skilled workers, while real, is only temporary at best and conceals the more profound development we talk about here.
Back to what is happening.
We, as humanity, have seen behind the curtain and dismantled the Wizard of Oz. At least some of us have. We have reached level II, the place where we are uncomfortable with the status quo and look for qualitatively similar solutions we can join, and stories we can tell.
We came up with the postmodern worldview, deconstructing everything. But since postmodernity does not offer a path to construct a new worldview but focuses on the tearing down of the old, we hit a wall.
Here is what Martin Gurri says about this in his piece for unherd:
Identity is the ruling orthodoxy of the day. Wesley Yang calls it the “successor ideology”, but it is less an ideology than a cockpit of grinding, wounding grievances contradicting one another: a perpetual conflict machine. Any piece of it, such as racial justice, can make perfect sense, but the whole dissolves into incoherence when it becomes clear that the highest ideal, equity, is a weasel word used to mask an inability to reconcile opposites.
I refer you to the article to undergird the hypothesis of the last sentence.
Let me say it in another way:
Postmodernity tells us, again and again, in time and out of time, in fear-driven urgency, what is wrong with the old system, and mostly does not provide a consistent outlook on how to proceed.
When we are most gracious, we can see parts of postmodernity as humanity’s attempt to stumble towards an ideal it only sees in part and perceives as through a glass dimly. This corresponds with level III in TPD: there is a qualitatively better solution, but we still need to figure out how to get there.
Postmodernity provides insights and tools to eliminate limiting beliefs that have kept us from growing in the previous systems. The challenge we face is distinguishing the forward-pointing useful parts of postmodernism from the destructive and distracting parts. Plus, we have to abstract postmodernity from its unhealthy manifestation we see around us.
The next level in TPD adds direction to our search and growth into our ideal. On a societal level, we might not talk about an ideal, which would sound like a utopia, but a worldview that better fits the challenges we face, brought forth not least by the shortcomings, errors, great inventions and progress of the previous worldview.
It will take a lot of work to reach a new stable state called secondary integration by growing into this new worldview as a society.
Jonathan Rowson from Perspectiva says, “we are living in a time between worlds.”
The next step is to design, discover, and co-create the ideal, to formulate and tell the story of the next world.
I would love to do my part in this endeavor as a coach and accompagnateur.