The metamorphosis undermined by the digital revolution and AI
Who can deny that the fundamentals of the humanization process (hierarchy, proximities and borders) are upset by the ongoing humanist metamorphosis which Alain de Vulpian tells us is being done to the advantage of people who are becoming more autonomous, more insightful, better able to trace their personal path in an increasingly complex environment?
Indeed, from the social fabric, which was made up of masses and bundles of made-up individuals, emanate from the interactions between people who are networked, changing and self-organizing in their own way; for the hierarchy and the domestication of man by man become looser; because cooperation trumps competition. For Alain de Vulpian is a gift from heaven or from the intelligence of the living. His optimism goes so far as to think that this metamorphosis prepares us to meet the deadly ecological and geopolitical challenges that our rationalist madness has accumulated.
But others, like Bernard Stiegler or Dominique Cardon, rightly observe that this hope is badly abused by a digital entropy that is heading towards a generalized disorder where the ephemeral and the instantaneous connection reign, prohibiting the constitution of a body of lasting knowledge, shared and in action as well as general learning.
The networked technical components (techno-sphere) endowed with so-called artificial intelligence and capacities for interrelations without human mediation, covered with links to multiple connections and instantaneous feedback, = become autonomous in a canvas which apparently overhangs human capacity and tends to dominate it. The value produced is captured by economic, state and military dominators who are curbing the open source options of platforms and preparing to use the exosphere as a weapon of massive influence.
A double helix encircles us, that of an accelerated entropic disregard due to the empowerment of the technical sphere by the digital, which escapes and destroys the social link instead of reinforcing it in its diversity and its autopoietic capacity. The immense capacities of influence (Cambridge Analytica) of the exo-sphere are placed at the service of traditional games of domination.
Internet initially carried the hope of an open world, of collective knowledge shared in co-elaboration. But the “Wiki-world” is turning around, because of what Bernard Stiegler called the “massification of mimetic behavior”. This leads to an accelerated depletion of resources and diversity, natural resources but also those of the collective knowledge of our time.
In short, it is not impossible that the metamorphosis will be slowed down, put at the service of the dominations of the old world and will have to wait for a few major collapses before constituting an alternative.
Finally, applying to the digital economy the standards and standards of the industrial economy amounts to transforming a remedy into a dazzling poison: over-capitalization, capture of value by capitalist monsters, destruction of common goods and the common good, development of areas of lawlessness as spaces for the destruction of value without a real creative alternative… Our inability to reinvent what can accommodate the revolution of artificial intelligence and in fact metamorphosis as a gift from heaven, transforms it into a formidable poison when it is approached with the norms of industrial society, its regimes of domination through financialization and its regulatory systems.
A bifurcation must and can occur to avoid this, opening up formidable hopes in line with Alain de Vulpian’s optimism. It can be born and grow at the heart of these techniques, opening us to a cognitive increase put at the service of the challenges that we have to take up: co-produced solutions, mastered by real people.
Low-cost solutions developed by and for the makers of metamorphosis are already being explored (crazy toads, street innovation, communities of economic resilience, third places, etc.). To amplify and accelerate this movement, four conditions are essential in my opinion.
- Elevate open source artificial intelligence support platforms to the status of common good of humanity, at least at European level. Put AI at the service of local creativity. This must be supported by research managed and financed by a citizen and public power.
- Reconnect to reality, from the needs of real people, the products and services they allow in a co-elaborative, repairable, durable and low-cost vision.
- Build deliberations at the local level accompanied by a research-action activity to build knowledge, epistemes of use and production, networked at the global level and connected to the global issues of the planet, in a learning design.
- Network the players and create a parliament of consciences at the global level, which opposes the private, closed possession of creative platforms, a civic possession of what is part of the common good thought of as the heritage of humanity.
These four principles apply even more to what pertains to the living and therefore to the manipulation of the gene. In a word, to build a society made up of learning, intertwined, autopoietic and networked communities, having taken control of their destiny at both local and global levels, concerned with the common good, including that which our humanity constitutes. Are we on this path?
Achieving these four conditions implies a real revolution in education.
For an education in metamorphosis
To educate is to “guide out” according to the etymology. Out of what? Out of what surrounds us, what we do not understand and which scares us, or what we have no idea and which is to be discovered. There is therefore behind this verb a notion of emancipation. That is to say, access to free will. But is it a total liberation or a responsible liberation, located in an interdependence in a world where everything is linked. This is a very contemporary question.
For a very long time, rationalist or even scientist philosophical currents have given reason, including scientific reason, the primary place in the act of education. There was a distrust of other dimensions of knowledge. Intuitive knowledge, creative knowledge or even spiritual knowledge appeared to be too easily permeable to psychological, sectarian or religious forms of subjectivity. They had the characteristic of being dependent on the subject, whereas rational knowledge appeared to be independent of the subject as an observing and thinking actor, which made it possible to develop concepts of universal scope. (Rational objectivity thought as absolute).
It was the triumph of reason stemming from enlightenment and plunging into the Socratic sources of true and false. The quest for truth through methodical doubt and the elaboration of concepts of universal scope, allowing the reading of the book of nature, which was thought to be written in mathematical language, constituted the heart and the body of the act of education. (with civics and morals). Even if there has always been the “Beautiful Letters” which were imposed at the same time, at least until around 1980. This has produced a confusion between instruction and education. Reason was then the spearhead of the economic, cultural, psychological and social emancipation of individuals. The rest was left to the private sphere and to transmission by the family.
But, this conception exploded in science itself with the arrival of the concepts of quantum physics where the observing subject cannot be separated from the result of the observation.
However, for me, this ambition to develop reason conferred as a priority on the act of education since the Enlightenment remains essential and I would say more than ever. Because the algorithmic civilization invades us. Algorithms, and the digital systems of all kinds associated with them, flood our daily lives sometimes without us knowing it. They also flood the daily lives of engineers, experts and scientists. Gradually taking control, they make us cross an unprecedented threshold in the history of knowledge and technoscientific action. They are exercised at the heart of historical interactions between opinions, mores, religion, industrial arts, fine arts and techno-sciences. In a word, at the heart of what defines a civilization. It is the act of understanding, that is to say of elaborating even a provisional truth about empirical reality, including social reality, which is often entrusted to algorithmic machines (or at least that is what is initially sought), let’s face it, to help man. But with AI and BIG DATA, they are gradually leaving the status of assistance to the act of knowledge through the enrichment of possibilities, to take on that of an “indisputable” source of truth through the analysis of correlations and not causes and simulation.
Indisputable, because not subject to critical experience and developing models that are too complex and too fast to be apprehended by the scientist. The techno-economic pressure is then exerted in full on the acceleration of the passage to the application before comprehension. We have gone from “knowing in order to do” to “doing in order to know” with the techno-sciences. We are preparing to move on to “doing without knowing”. And it is the whole civilizational sphere that is concerned. We are in an epistemic revolution in the sense of Michel Foucault. Its ethical issues are considerable.
However, the development of logical and scientific reason remains for me, although traditional, the first contemporary issue of education, the essential source of this desire for emancipation. Re-teach everyone to develop a real ethics of argumentation and therefore of the “posture of truth”. Discern and develop one’s own judgment through reason. For this, it is necessary to master the language to acquire the sense of nuance, the capacity for communicational otherness. It is necessary to master the logic, the capacity of synthesis, the capacity of calculation and that of solving by oneself complicated and even complex problems.
Full delegation to the machine by acquiring the procedures it processes without understanding the operator has been a trend for several decades. It is the harbinger of this abandonment in the face of the intelligent machine. The crisis in scientific vocations is another. It is dangerous for the day when algorithms will no longer be content to act like programmable calculators but will develop real cognitive strategies that will be non-neutral and not confronted with critical experience… This is the passage from algorithmic “for assisted knowledge engineering” to the algorithm for “driven knowledge engineering”.
This contemporary approach to educational issues aims to revisit past trends and therefore appear somewhat reactionary. But I assume the omen. But, conversely, neuroscience teaches us today that isolating the exercise of reason from the rest of thought is questionable reductionism, including on a biological level. The act of thinking and that of discerning are the result of a complex system between different areas of the brain in interaction. Thus intuition, imagination, creativity, immediate memory, deep and archetypal memory, psyche and spirituality are also at the source of all discernment, even if it is apparently completely rationalized, that is to say theoretically rid of the thinking subject. In addition, new discoveries on neuronal plasticity and epigenetics push for a more holistic view of the exercise of thought itself influenced by and influencing the body on a biological level, including in a transmissible way. All this has the effect of reintroducing the subject, as heir to one lineage and transmitter to the next in the act of thinking. Moreover, the contemporary vision of systems tends to erase more and more the subject-object duality. What is pushed to the limits could go as far as a flattening of the pyramid of living things, with humans becoming an actor-network like the others, that is to say with their own characteristics but without hierarchy, qualified as anthropocentric. We see the consequences of this today with the development of extreme eco-philosophical theories.
This “re-internalization” of the subject in a global vision of the exercise of free will leads us to broaden the necessities of the act of education if it really wants to prepare for emancipation and access to responsible free will. In fact, this is about helping everyone to reveal all of their talents and not just that of logical rationality. The development of the person as a “man in relationship” who pulls himself beyond himself to meet the values that give meaning to his life, then falls squarely within the educational objective. Thus emerges the concept of integral education which opens up a new possible convergence with the humanistic vision of man. Education in Art, wonder, self-knowledge, awareness and spirituality, social justice, then take on a new educational status.
Thierry Magnin concludes our next book on the advent of algorithmic civilization as follows: “Taking care of the spiritual dimension of every human being by promoting, with great respect for the internal forum, its integral development and expression, is a essential key for a society to intelligently choose the “world of tomorrow”. The great religious and wisdom traditions have treasures of life to put in the “common pot” of our humanity in search of meaning. So that we can take up again, each in his own way, this prayer of the psalmist (Ps 117, 5), full of gratitude towards God: “You have set me free” (educere). It is this freedom, this “open sea” horizon that we need worldwide.
Indeed, this integral vision of education fully meets the growing ecological awareness essential to a desirable and sustainable future. Because what is required of us by the challenges of preserving our common home is a new relationship to time and space. Algorithmic civilization is entirely based on the acceleration of space-time. Awareness of long times and global spaces has never been so essential to our survival. The time of the living and that of the rise in consciousness essential source of our process of growing humanization are incompressible. They open on a letting go and an awareness of incompleteness source of true freedom in a global interdependence where everything is connected and in communion with nature.
For communion is not a subservience to the ecological constraints, the negation of freedom, quite the contrary. A Copernican revolution where demands for the common good is not considered as a brake on development, innovation and progress, but as a driving force. It liberates the singularity and stimulates it, opens up new horizons for it. It is not draconian by reducing free will, but on the contrary liberating by stimulating it. We touch here on one of the foundations of the new era for the field of education.
To conclude, allow me to quote the philosopher Henri Bergson who in 1957 wrote in “The two sources of Morality and Religion” – Chapter IV […]
If our organs are natural instruments, our instruments are by that very fact artificial organs. The workman’s tool continues his arm; humanity’s tools are therefore an extension of its body. Nature, by endowing us with an essentially manufacturing intelligence, had thus prepared for us a certain enlargement. But machines that run on oil, on coal, on “white coal”, and which convert into movement potential energies accumulated over millions of years, have come to give our organism such a vast extension and such formidable power, so disproportionate to its size and its strength, that surely nothing had been foreseen in the structural plan of our species: it was a unique opportunity, the greatest material success of man on the planet. A spiritual impulse had perhaps been imprinted at the beginning: the extension had been done automatically, served by the accidental blow of a pickaxe which struck underground a miraculous treasure. Now, in this disproportionately swollen body, the soul remains what it was, too small now to fill it, too weak to direct it.
Hence the void between him and her. Hence the formidable social, political and international problems, which are so many definitions of this void and which, to fill it, today give rise to so many disorderly and ineffective efforts: new reserves of potential energy would be needed, this time moral. Let us therefore not confine ourselves to saying, as we did above, that mysticism calls upon mechanics. Let us add that the enlarged body expects a supplement of soul, and that the mechanics would require a mystique. The origins of this mechanic are perhaps more mystical than one might think; it will not find its true direction, it will render services proportionate to its power, only if the humanity which it has bent even more towards the earth succeeds by it in straightening up and gazing at the sky. …