Virtually anyone who is even slightly immersed in the subject of artificial intelligence, comes to the conclusion that either he will lead us to a fiery Apocalypse or a magical utopia. Options between virtually no. Of course, this is partly dictated by the fact that more attention is attracted to slogans like “the End is near!” or “Utopia is coming!”. And yet…
In part, this comes down to how people feel about change, especially large-scale. Millenialism has nothing to be “Millennials”, born in the 90s and remember the series about Buffy, the winner of vampires. This style of thinking about the future, which is associated with a deep-rooted sense of destiny. Millenarism is “the expectation that the world will be destroyed and replaced with a perfect world and that will come the Redeemer who will crush evil, and consolation of the righteous.”
Beliefs of Millennials, respectively, are closely linked to the idea of destruction and creation. Among them — the idea is huge, apocalyptic, seismic shifts that will destroy the fabric of the old world and build something completely new. Such belief system exists in many major religions of the world, even in not most religions, atheists and agnostics who believe in technology.
Consider, for example, as futurists are waiting for a technological singularity. According to ray Kurzweil, the singularity is the creation of Paradise. Everyone will become immortal thanks to biotechnology that will cure our disease; our brains will be uploaded to the cloud; inequality and suffering will disappear as a phenomenon. “World destruction” (destruction of the world) is replaced by the preferred term Silicon valley: disruption or radical change in the industry. And as with other millennial beliefs, your final opinion depends on what are you waiting for: the end of the world or the birth of utopia.
There are many good reasons to stay skeptical about this kind of thinking. The most convincing one is probably that the beliefs of Millennials simply reflect the attitude of people to change; just look at how many variations of these beliefs have grown in the world.
These beliefs are present in aspects of Christian theology, though, and became popular in its modern form in the 19th and 20th centuries. Ideas like Eternal mourning — many years of suffering and hardship — and the Rapture, when the righteous will be resurrected and the wicked punished. After this destruction, the world is re-created, or people will go to heaven.
In spite of the dogmatic atheism in Marxism there were many such beliefs. The only question in relation to the story. Just as believers are looking for the signals that hint at the fulfillment of the prophecies, the Marxists are looking for signs that we are in the final stage of capitalism. They believe that society will inevitably deteriorate and degenerate to the bottom — in fact, according to Christians.
According to Marxism, when the exploitation of the working class rich will be unsustainable, the working class is going and relieves the oppressors. “Sorrow” is replaced by “revolution.” Sometimes revolutionary figures such as Lenin or Marx himself proclaimed Messiahs that bring the onset of the Millennium; their rhetoric inevitably contains the calls for the destruction of the old system, the ruin of which “we ours, we will build a new world”. A righteous workers will get their due, and the evil bourgeoisie will be destroyed.
Even in Norse mythology there is an element of this, as noted by James Hughes in his essay in the book nick Bostrom “Global catastrophic risks”. Ragnarok and the people and the gods defeated in a final apocalyptic battle, but since it is a little gloomy, the Scandinavians have added the idea of a new earth, where the survivors will live in harmony.
Doomsday also has become a cultural trope. Take the ancient Egyptians and their beliefs on the subject of the afterlife; the Lord of the underworld, Osiris weighed the heart of a mortal along with a pen. If the heart of the deceased will be too burdened by misconduct, it will be eaten by the demon and hope the afterlife will disappear.
Perhaps during the singularity will happen. As soon as improved our technology, and hence our strength, our hearts, the hearts of the people, are weighed against feathers. If they are too heavy with stupidity, arrogance, prejudice, evil — we fail the test and be destroyed. But if we go in and come out of the singularity, we are waiting for Paradise. As in other belief systems, there is no place for non-believers; the whole society will change radically, whether you like it or not. Technological rapture.
It seems, every serious development provokes such a response. Nuclear weapons, too. Either it will be the last straw and we will destroy ourselves, or nuclear energy can be used to create a better world. At the dawn of the nuclear age, people spoke of electricity “too cheap to be considered.” The scientists who worked on the bomb, most thought that with such destructive power in the hands of man, we will just have to come together and work together as a species.
When we see the same response over and over again, in different circumstances arising in different fields, be it science, religion or politics, we need to consider human prejudices. We like the beliefs of Millennials, so when the idea of artificial intelligence will exceed human, we immediately impose a familiar pattern.
We don’t like the facts. We don’t like information. We are not so rational as we think we are. We are creatures of narrative. Physicists see the world, and we woven your own observations in narrative theory, stories of tiny billiard balls flying here and there and collide among themselves, or of space and time, which is bent, is curved and expanding. Historians attempt to give meaning to the endless stream of events. We love stories: stories posted by our past, our present and they are preparing us for the future.
Narrative of Millennials are beautiful and compelling. It leads you to social changes. It can meet your daily suffering, if you are grieving. He gives you a hope that your life is important and meaningful. It gives you a sense of the development of things in a certain direction, in accordance with the rules, and not just in chaos. He promises that the righteous will be saved, and heretics punished even if you are on the path of suffering. Finally, the narrative of Millennials are promised heaven in the end of the tunnel.
We should be careful with the narrative of Millennials as we reflect on the theme of technological development, the singularity and existential risks. Many times we shouted “wolves!”, when they were not. Perhaps now the world is on the brink of disaster. Of course, this story is not as attractive. Of course, everyone wants enchanting finale.
But dig deeper and you will understand that the beliefs of Millennials are not always the most promising because they eliminate the human agent from the equation. We have to believe in shades of gray and to abandon the sinister Apocalypse with red-AI, and from the fairy-tale utopia with the all-powerful AI that loves people.