This December, entrepreneur Elon Musk made a series of predictions about the future of society that, regardless of our positions, deserve to be very much taken into consideration. “If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble. Mark my words,” said Musk.
In this way, in an annual tip of the Wall Street Journal, Musk stressed that the falling birth rate is a serious challenge and danger for the future of civilization, of humanity as a whole.
At the same time, he completely dismantled the logic and sense that the theory of “overpopulation” could have. By this I mean those who follow the current of neo-Malthusianism, in which “there would be an excess of population” on our planet, alluding to a false “need” to combat it.
A few days later, he bet on Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a “revolutionary” factor (in the most positive sense of the word) of most of the productive fabric on a global scale, given that it would not be necessary to maintain many jobs whose current execution depends on mere human action.
In addition, he said that there is a need for broad coverage of manpower for the design and implementation of the logic and physical composition of the various solutions that require Artificial Intelligence (software engineers, programmers, and engineers in electronics and telecommunications, inter alia).
It is normal, therefore, that technological areas related to Big Data, Machine Learning, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things are booming (remember that health and not-so health circumstances accelerated both for better and for worse the enhancement of the same: teleworking, telemedicine, remote communications, etc.).
However, there is a fear that remains among many of us, which does not necessarily have to do with the neo-Luddism that was once the opposition to the industrial and agricultural machines we use today. It has to do with an ethical and human dilemma that coined the term “transhumanism.”
Transcending homo sapiens
Transhumanism should be understood as a commitment to an individual that surpasses all the natural and spontaneous (at least natural) limits that can be imposed on him today. The interpretation that can be made of this is naive, but it has nothing to do with a mere improvement in productivity or our quality of life.
The postulates fit in with the postmodernist bet of many men, based on setting themselves up as the Homo Deus. Beyond a mere egocentric attitude, which may or may not occur, there are those who deny the possible belief in the beyond and consider it possible to eliminate any obstacle.
It is not enough to say that it is a mere fear of death (it is true that today this happens even among people of deep religious convictions) but to contribute to the subversion of the natural order that those of us who are Christians interpret as a fruit of Creation.
As professor and scholar Miklos Lukacs warns, there may come a time when computer algorithms can be “detached from human intervention,” so that no human person would be required to design new flowcharts. Following this vision, we would see both autonomous and self-replicating machines.
A motivation for skepticism towards technology
Let us talk about participation in a scientific-technological debate that gives deserved prominence to various ethical considerations. There are precisely those who, because of these fears, consider that limits must be placed not only on the creativity intrinsic to human action and, consequently, on the spontaneous freedom of the market, but also on technological development itself.
There is concern about the deterioration of our human dignity and integrity as well as of the concrete freedoms that, by natural order, correspond to each one of us, as the human beings that we are. There is, rather, a debatable question to be answered (I will discuss it in the following section.)
Technology is good as long as it helps
I am convinced that technology can continue to help improve our productivity, as well as to break down physical, geographical and time barriers that may complicate friendly coexistence in the distance or family reconciliation with small children, the sick or the elderly.
Productivity can help us to earn more and to be able to dedicate more time to rest, to the profession of faith and to family coexistence (in short, it would be necessary to invest less time in work, being able to do more things, in better conditions, in the shortest possible time.)
Similarly, we can foresee a scientific-technological development that, by promoting telemedicine, would facilitate the precision of clinical diagnosis and make it possible to avoid both physiological and mental pathologies to a large extent or at all. Likewise, there could be greater feasibility in certain biological and pharmacological research.
There are more positive examples, but I have only wanted to cite those that may be more interesting a priori. If anything, I might add that I see no problem in helping a person to the extent that, for example, he or she could regain vision or hearing abilities, or be able to be physically independent.
That said, the problem is when we try to take advantage of AI to work on a new worldview in line with the revolutionary process defined by Plinio Correa de Oliveira. The same is true when we seek applications for monitoring and citizen control, such as those that the Chinese Communist Party has been exploring for years.
We can say that we should not be concerned that the future continues to depend on legitimate technological progress. What we should be concerned about is that the enemies of freedom that are installed in the institutions do not cease their coercive attitudes under certain pretexts (ecologism, “covidianism”, etc.) Science, reason and faith yes; scientism and revolution no.