Lesson 19: Conclusion (Part 2)

I found it hard to end this series because something new was in the news every week. Although I had written on technology and religion most of my life, I constantly encountered stuff I knew nothing about.

Things are changing so quickly and convoluted that I found discussing the situation with others at any depth challenging. No one seems too sure about what is going on. They will marvel at artificial intelligence but lack the information to do much more. They might understand that massive algorithms can perform extraordinary tasks but don’t understand how this happens.

At first, I thought this was because of the hyper-specialization that occurs in modern technology. Maybe only those who specialize in the field understand. But then I would read or hear a specialist report and come away wondering if they really understood what they were saying. Some, of course, admit that they can set up huge algorithms that work but can’t explain how.

Nevertheless, I heard almost everyone say artificial intelligence is going to change the world, even though they admitted they did not know what that entailed. I think I found an equal division between people who think this is a good thing and those who think it is bad. The less optimistic believe big tech will be used by the unscrupulous to control and manipulate the rest of us. Many say the sad thing is this is already happening without our awareness or permission.

In reaction, some call for regulation of corporations’ and government’s surveillance and manipulation. Others shudder, thinking freedom is better than giving control to politicians.

Another thing I heard constantly was predictions that a lot of people were going to lose their jobs. We have finally come to the point where we realize that technology will not replace them. The primary example cited our inability to replace all the drivers put out of work by self-driving cars.

The most disturbing part of the study was the fatalism. Just about everyone thought we have to take the bad with the good. They saw little hope in controlling the negative effects of technology. Technology would inevitably continue replacing culture in our society’s decision-making.

Besides those calling for regulation, a few argue for overcoming our reliance on siloed thinking, which divides real life into domains or academic departments. Those who bother to respond claim the time to do that has passed us by.

I have no closure for ending the series. I’m hoping to no avail for some clarity to emerge. I expect I’ll pick it up again if and when it does.

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