That humans should flourish

Isaac Asimov had these rules for robots of not doing harm, etc, and there was a group on data governance about a year ago, and the single rule that came out of it was that humans should flourish. I think that’s a valuable principle to have in the development of new technology.
Venki Ramakrishnan, in "[Kazuo Ishiguro and Venki Ramakrishnan: imagining a new humanity]("

I’ve mentioned before Ruth Benedict’s notion of ‘synergy’ as a spectrum along which cultures differ as to how well the humans who enact those cultures flourish. This has also been called a differentiation of life-affirming vs. life-denying cultures. Erich Fromm, in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973), framed it more starkly as necrophilic vs. biophilic cultures, with the speculation that our industrialized societies were necrophilic, drawn to and valorizing non-living mechanism over life. Picking up the theme of The Sane Society (1955), he held that in an insane social system it is the sane people who most experience psychological distress, not those who are ‘adjusted’ to the social order. How to flourish within (or anyway in relation to) the prevailing social arrangements is an important control problem.

Ishiguro and Ramakrishnan are two nobel laureates, one in literature and the other in chemistry. Their discussion of impending/actual issues of AI, genetic tinkering, surveillance/recognition, data farming (we are not the customers, that’s those who buy the ads; we aren’t even the product, we are the arable land), etc. is a discussion in which change to system concepts must a crucial role before sequence, program, and even principle control is taken from us by our inventions.

We need publications placing the PCT perspective squarely in this discussion of principles and systems. In my present circumstances I can’t undertake that, but I can contribute at whatever level is helpful.

Read at least the Ishiguro-Ramakrishnan conversation first before replying, please.

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The Ishiguro-Ramakrishnan conversation is behind a pay-wall. I subscribed to 1€ trial period and found out that I got a right to share some gift links to the articles of Financial Times. So here is a gift access to this article for anyone who needs it: (This link can be opened up to 3 times and is valid for 90 days, so probably only three quickest of you can use it…)

Ramakrishnan says: “We pretend we’re very rational creatures but, deep down, we’re actually highly

emotional beings. So, there’s this veneer of rationality on top of us, but it’s a very thin

veneer. So how do we guard against that? I don’t have a good solution, except to educate

people and be transparent about how we know things."

This reminds me about Bregman’s Humankind: A Hopeful History ( which I warmly suggest for everyone’s reading. The core message of the book is about this:

“There is a persistent myth that by their very nature humans are selfish,

aggressive and quick to panic. It’s what Dutch biologist Frans de Waal likes

to call veneer theory: the notion that civilisation is nothing more than a thin

veneer that will crack at the merest provocation. In actuality, the opposite

is true. It’s when crisis hits – when the bombs fall or the floodwaters rise –

that we humans become our best selves.”

Anyway, my main (PCT) point of view to the problems discussed in the Ishiguro-Ramakrishnan conversation is that we should learn to take more into account the side-effects of our controlling. This is what I wrote about in my latest publication:

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OK, here’s a PDF that a friend sent me. I was able to find it online, so I thought the URL was easy.

Kazuo Ishiguro and Venki Ramakrishnan imagining a new humanity _ Financial Times.pdf (3.5 MB)

Just as The Sane Society is a refutation of Freud’s Civilization and its discontents (never forget that it was Freud’s nephew who created the field of public relations and refined methods of propaganda the Nazis admired and used), Fromm inveighed 20 years later against the notion of innate human selfish aggression. The first part of The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness surveys biology, archaeology, and anthropology in support of this refutation. Then he gets into narcissism, then sadism, and I’m currently reading the chapters on necrophilia vs. biophilia. Those discussions and especially the psychological biography-sketch of Hermann Hesse seem to me closely apt to our experience with Trump.