Covid-19 is the first real global health crisis in every respect in the history of humanity with more than 212 million people infected, close to 4.5 million deaths and with the issue of collateral damage having been discussed so extensively during this health crisis as if we were on the battlefield – yes, there is a war going on.
Meanwhile, other than the vaccine, the two main defenses against it have been social distancing and mask wearing, two measures not very “human” themselves. Covid has exposed many pre-existing weaknesses all around the world: lack of leadership and lack of proper coordination at many levels, serious and significant socioeconomic injustices all around, at times a justifiable lack of trust of global institutions. In many ways it has exposed many shortcomings of our own humanity as we know it, as we live it.
Another issue that has come to the forefront is the issue of mental health. Something that most were unable/reluctant to even talk about before, we all now hopefully realize that as much as we talk about and take care of our physical bodies, we have to do the same for our mental health, this is going to be a major issue to deal with in the next years to come, a major issue.
Our own humanity is under attack, much more important than the repercussions of Covid itself. So here we are. Humanity and AI: there is a reason, or at least there should be a reason, why it’s humanity and AI and not humanity vs AI, and more important why humanity comes first. We, humans are partly responsible for having compromised/commoditized our own humanity in so many ways. Our humanity has been weakened and has become vulnerable. We have all seen this in a clear way during the ongoing Covid pandemic.
We have been exposed, but at the same time maybe we have been given just another chance to collectively “regroup” (really, how many more wake-up calls do we need?) not only to be better prepared before the next pandemic, but to deal with the clear onset of the new era of digitization and the end of the era of industrialization as we have known it, in its many evolved versions, in the last couple of centuries or so, to deal with the at times aggressive introduction, some may say intrusion, of technology and AI into our daily, and not only, human lives.
Technology at large involves numerous opportunities and challenges, it can help us live a better life, for all, but there are many challenges along the way and, depending on how we deal with them, it will determine if humanity, our own humanity, can still have a say in tomorrow’s world, our world.
A lot of emphasis was put on IQ up to a few years ago, but I think it’s clear IQs’ own value has been commoditized and diluted. You can just Google almost anything you need/want to find out about. The emphasis now should be on something that we seem to take for granted and we ourselves don’t seem to appreciate it, to say the least. It’s back to basics, its about our human and emotional intelligence, our EQ, a core element of our humanity, and perhaps our strongest element in what should be our collective human approach to deal with the clear onset of AI, to help us embrace and engage with AI, and with all our strength to help humanity shape AI in such a way that they will coexist, and – why not? – for AI to serve humanity instead of simply replacing us.
It is about our having a say in how we’re going to live in this new Brave New World, and, as Christopher Hitchens said back in 2003 at the end of his foreword of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World Revisited,” “…there is no escape from anxiety and struggle,” but we can still fight together for a better tomorrow, for all humankind and help us stay human. We all need, as much as we all can, to do all we can to help improve education, healthcare, justice, decency, bring back hope, for every human soul in this world.
Andreas Dracopoulos is co-president and director of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), a private, international philanthropic organization.