Welcome to A New Civilization!
We are not living in a digital revolution; we are living in a change of civilization. And maybe we should think about which kind of civilization we'd like to live in.
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I sometimes get easily irritated when I hear about the digital revolution, the "great contributions" of artificial intelligence, the net economy. We often talk about it with emphasis, with a certain scientific tone. According to the gurus of our time, we live in a great era of infinite progress, a kind of infinite industrial revolution. All this excitement fails to mask the fact that we are changing our civilization entirely.
But What Is A Civilization?
According to Wikipedia, a civilization is "any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification imposed by a cultural elite, symbolic systems of communication (for example, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment." We see that communication systems are extremely important for defining a civilization. Moreover, civilizations are often divided into oral and written cultures. In these two types of civilization, relationships with others are very different between them.
In an oral culture, it is another person who teaches you, so it is essential to maintain good relationships with everyone. In some countries, for example, you will never be told no, and you will have to ask your questions openly. In the same way, you may never be told goodbye, because goodbye is seen as "breaking" the relationship with the person, even if it is meant to be very temporary. In a written civilization, on the other hand, knowledge is in books. The relationship with the other is less important because you can acquire your knowledge through reading. This transition from one civilization to another has, however, resulted in a widening gap between the rich and the poor, with the poor having little or no access to books.
A New Type of Civilization
Now, written knowledge is no longer only in books or passed down orally, but virtually, found in almost every pocket! Whenever someone wishes to share information, we can quickly research their claims for verification. This also applies to general and technical information. If my car makes a strange noise, in ten minutes, I'll find a YouTube video of someone with the same problem explaining the solution. Connecting with other cultures has never been more immersive and multifaceted: listen to a Spotify playlist on Colombia, read a blog page on Colombia, review Colombian cuisine recipes, and I'm almost an expert on Colombia. But it is not only knowledge.
There is also the relationship with others. If I want to call someone, wherever I am, I can. If I want to try my luck to contact a celebrity, a tweet or an email may be enough. At the same time, communities are being created on the internet around common interests and hobbies as well as around political issues. And information flows at full speed, almost without a filter.
The unfortunate consequence is that we become dependent on these tools, and communication between humans seems to be mainly through technology. What is really happening with discussions? Do we have real debates anymore? The speed of this media is thrusting us into an uncertain future.
And then we have artificial intelligence! And the promises of progressive scientists and engineers let us peer through to a world in which we become useless, according to their own words. This could lead to a question of replacing our own truth with that of the machines, even though this supposed rationality is questionable on plenty subjects. If the machine is right, what are we going to talk about? What could our relationships with others be used for? Are we going to become functionless beings who simply exist in a world of leisure for all? I am tempted to be reassured because I don't think artificial intelligence will replace us. To the contrary, I believe that we are precisely at a time when we are beginning to realize that this is not going to go as far as we expected.
We are experiencing real changes, big changes, many of which are impacting our relationships with others. Did the founders of Twitter think they would have this influence? Did Mark Zuckerberg forsee the impact of Facebook? In our businesses, we often do not and cannot think far ahead about the consequences of our work. After all, it is other people who want such new software; we are just building it. But perhaps we should think more carefully about it together, because we understand that we are indeed changing as a society. In these times, as we engage in more conversations about ethics and morality in technology, we should embrace these subjects in our programming and coding.
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