An evolutionary fork in the road
Several areas of interest and concerns collided in my head when I saw this ad as I was browsing through my Facebook feed last month.
As a tech enthusiast, I have been closely following developments around machine learning and artificial intelligence over the years. That included playing with ChatGPT in the last couple of months to understand how it works. As a peacebuilder doing work around religion and conflict resolution, I have also been tracking the development of Dataism as a potential religion of the future, and naturally the rise of AI tools such as ChatGPT aid hugely in that direction. As a student of Yoga and philosophy, there has been a deepening sense of what it means to be human, and to participate in life, and that in many ways is in a collision course with the earlier two perspectives.
One of the pillars of my corporate leadership development work has been the idea of conscious capitalism. However, I have always found that a one-sided practice. The other wing of the bird, so to say, needs to be conscious consumerism, if we were to genuinely infuse our economies with consciousness. In my opinion, it is in fact the first step. Otherwise, so long as demand leads the way, suppliers will continue to capitalise on opportunities, leaving little room for consciousness in practice.
So when I saw this ad, an alarm went off. Not that ghost writers and plagiarism have not existed before, but here we are, actively promoting sales of books written by an AI tool. Of course, once might argue, a lot of the content of such a book depends on the inputs given to the tool by the author, and that there may be editing effort, and so on. However, what we are setting ourselves up for is mindless content generation in a volume that cannot possibly be ever humanly consumed. The more dangerous proposition here is the number of people that can claim (and even get themselves to believe) to be authors, without having gone through the rigour of research, writing and rewriting, and the ensuing travails of publication. And we seem to live in a world where the ethics of encouraging this through an ad is not questioned.
I do believe technological development is integral to human evolution. However, it is critical to question, what this development is in service of. Else, we are not in alignment with the natural design of life. Every life form, if we look around us, lives in service of an even more evolved, more complex entity. Minerals serve plants through nutrition and anchoring as soil, without taking away anything from their own existence in the process. In fact, they become critical because they are in service to the flora. Plants serve animals by being their food and shelter, while also enabling practically every specie on the planet as oxygen generators. Animals serve humans as food, as labour saving entities, and as joyous companions. So if we are to truly participate in life, we need to constantly hold the question: who do we serve?
It is arrogant to assume that we are the pinnacle of evolution and therefore can afford to serve our own egos by making machines write for us. This is not about the authorship at all, of course. It is the fact that in outsourcing mental and emotional labour that are embedded the process of writing (or for that matter, any other task that AI might do for us), which are huge opportunities for personal growth and development of consciousness, we give up evolving. We step away from life, not serving evolution, and thus make ourselves redundant. We make stronger the case for our species to go extinct, by choosing not to belong in life.
It is not about this ad at all. It is about the fork in the road that it signifies for our species. What will we choose?
#RukminiIyer #ExultSolutions #evolution #ethics #technology #artificialintelligence #chatgpt