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Navigating the New Age
How to Adapt our Institutions and Ideas to the New Era of Human Progress.
If you all know me and have seen so far I am a sucker for freedom. I believe people should have freedom over their genetics and decide freely on how to modify them and have genetic and morphological freedom over their bodies. I also believe freedom of expression is a must for all healthy societies. And I’m a firm critic of undemocratic regimes and the threat they represent to people’s freedom not only those who sadly live under these regimes, but also due to their influence in geopolitics and the decline we’ve seen of democracies around the world.
Now, that doesn’t mean that all democracies are perfect oh hell naw! But, they are a better system than authoritarian regimes every day of the week. Sadly it seems that the principles of freedom and liberalism – which alongside economic and technological development uplifted hundreds of millions of people and minorities in developed and developing nations around the world – with hiccups and mistakes along the way. Yes of course. it ain’t all perfect and nothing will ever be.
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But still, we can see how these founding and great principles are being perceived as “failures” in today's world with more and more critics of liberalism and democracy and also overblowing every small rift or crack in these institutions as arguments that copying a one-party dictatorship like Russia or China is the way to go for developing nations. But I know this is not the way, we need to update and enhance our institutions and ideas about freedom liberalism, and democracy in today’s world. We are living in an era of incredibly advanced technological development with tools that would seem god-like to those who came before us and to those people who wrote the fundamental ideas that we built today’s world.
Industrial Institutions for Godlike Powers
In the seminal work 'On Liberty'(you should read this), John Stuart Mill, a giga-chad of liberal philosophy, articulated the importance of individual freedom and self-expression against the tyranny of the majority and government. Written during an era of profound technological and social transformations, the echoes of the Industrial Revolution were still rocking the world alongside the shift from an aristocratic to a more democratic form of government. Mill championed the idea of liberty as a cornerstone of a flourishing society. Today, as we navigate through our own epoch of revolutionary change, driven by the rapid evolution of technology — notably, the pervasive influence of social media and the rise of artificial intelligence — the principles Mill espoused remain strikingly relevant. Our world, much like Mill's, is witnessing a seismic shift in how information is disseminated and how power is exercised. This contemporary revolution calls for a reevaluation and adaptation of our liberal institutions and ideals. Just as Mill advocated for individual liberties amidst the social upheavals of the 19th century, we too must ensure that our modern interpretations of democracy and liberalism are robust enough to safeguard personal freedoms in an increasingly connected and technologically sophisticated society.
But there is a complex reality to all of this because we developed these institutions and ideologies in such radical times that maybe it is time for us to reassess and update these ideologies for our modern life.
The Power of Synthetic Media in the Digital Age
We are living in times of accelerating change and one of the key areas where this change is noticeable is in the media we consume, from newspapers being a reliable source of information we have lived through the fragmentation of truth and credibility and the erosion of those concepts thanks to the digitalization of information and the democratization of certain tools for reporting and delivering content in real-time online to a massive audience using social media as a platform.
The problem is that instead of having everyone become a potential source of truth and having many perspectives on a single topic getting us closer to the truth we now have weapons of misinformation in the pocket of every person. Social media algorithms focused on engagement and due to the biological predisposition of humans to engage with emotionally charged information have led us astray from rational truth and into an emotional turmoil of endless discourse regarding fake news.
With the rise of AI, we will be seeing more and more risky “Synthetic Media” being mass-produced and not for any good or beneficial aim. With tools like Large Language Models and AI misinformation agents could be generating content at an unprecedented speed that just muddles the public discourse and erodes democracy or shifts public opinion towards radical viewpoints and populist ideas.
So, what does freedom of expression mean when toxic and noxious ideas can spread faster than truth as we’ve seen with fake news and social media now adding the pressure of synthetic media do we need to revise the concept of being a “freedom of expression absolutist”? Because when these ideas were developed the “farthest” one crazy idea could go was as far as your voice could be heard so just a crazy guy on a soapbox shouting. But now thanks to technology the crazy guy speaks and the whole world can listen and that means that the spread of dangerous ideas is thriving like in no other time of human history.
Also, how do we save democracy when recommendation engines created by private corporations in one part of the world can change the results and shift public opinion across the globe? Do we restrict these companies' influences and disrupt the global economy in the process? Do we increase the education of the population in digital literacy? Do we go back to only allowing a certain percentage of people to vote because they are somewhat immune to the radical influence of social media? If that were the case would you be able to vote in the next elections? This is a dire place to be but I don’t think all hope is lost we live in an age of overwhelming amounts of information and disinformation is not only common I think is inevitable up to a certain degree, we need better tools that help people filter out misinformation fake news and also identifying synthetic media with in real-time fact-checking for our media consumption and the public debate so we can prevent the overabundance of fakeness to overtake reality in our world.
Pandemic in your Pocket
We’ve discussed previously how human biology is filled with flaws and mistakes and how we are approaching a time when we will finally be able to transcend these biological limitations towards greater genetic and morphological freedom over our bodies. No more will humanity be tied by the shackles of their birth and have to carry the burden of suffering genetic diseases and conditions that will permanently affect and deter them from freely enjoying life to the fullest.
And we shouldn’t stop there; biotechnology and synthetic biology will probably be THE tools that will help humanity to solve the climate crisis and most of the environmental externality that has come from our advances and development as a species. But it can also represent an existential threat when thanks to AI and genetic tools such as CRISPR any person with a minimum understanding of biology – and the proper resources– can develop new microorganisms and pathologies in their spare time.
How do we regulate this without restraining innovators from developing lifesaving treatments and therapies in small startups? Also, can we determine who has the right over someone’s genetic independence? If a person wants to modify their genes that’s ok, but what if they want to eliminate any potential genetic disease to their offspring? Is that a parent wanting what's best for their children because they want to reduce future suffering for their child, or will some radical conservative call that eugenics? Also what about Germline genetic modifications do we restrict them to avoid any unintended consequences or are we being over dramatic for something that just by flying on an airplane we receive more radiation and potential genetic mishandling that will forever affect humanity further down the line?
These are questions we should be asking ourselves and probably seeing which regulatory pathways will lead us towards developing more and faster solutions with these technologies while safekeeping people from existential threats. Robust regulation is a must so that we can avoid a scenario where a rogue researcher with some moderate amount of funds could develop the next pandemic in their spare time while no one was looking or a terrorist organization instead of wasting money on rockets buys some lab equipment and develops a bio-weapon and launches that towards an innocent populace.
Rethinking Economic Systems and Social Structures
Our current economic systems are struggling that is for sure, the COVID-19 pandemic led to huge disruptions in global supply chains that reverberated for months to come. Then The Russian Invasion attempt of Ukraine disrupted global energy markets which has affected all other markets in one way or another. Now the war of Israel versus the terorrist group Hamas has also upended markets and that is not counting the chaos that is stirring more and more caused by weather-related phenomena like droughts and floods in different places across the planet disrupting crop cycles and we will be seeing things like that happening more and more.
But those are not the only threats to our economic prosperity and stability as a species, automation thanks to AI and robotics poised to eliminate and automate more and more jobs in the coming years we are facing the reality of how disposable and inefficient humans are for labor – in your face marx haha!– so what can we do in the face of these disruptions? What will happen when a certain percentage of jobs get automated and people have no other means of sustaining themselves? Maybe Universal basic income (UBI) will be the solution to keep consumer economics running companies thriving and people having a way to purchase goods and services while maintaining their necessities.
Also, what happens when scarcity stops being an issue, with technological developments the efficiency and capacity to reuse materials will in a couple of decades allow us to practically reshape reality to our whims and reuse materials to such a degree we haven’t seen before. Will nanotechnology reshape economics?
Will Keynesian economics still hold in these times? We are currently living in a revolution happening in economics thanks to what some dub the credibility revolution where economists are less and less trying to fit reality in more and more complex models but looking at the real world and taking insight from these “natural experiments” and learning from what has happened to try and understand how the world works and forecast better the future of our economic development. Maybe economists working alongside AI can overcome the complexities of reality and understand and predict and get what is the “secret sauce” for economic growth and development. It remains to be seen.
Maybe we will reach the dream (of some) of fully automated luxury space communism (the best name for any economic and social ideology if you ask me) With all of our basic needs being met by an automated economy humanity will be free to do whatever they please and maybe expand beyond our current limits, or we will be entangled in a loop of entertainment and simple immediate pleasure and live our lives like the obese humans of Wall-E with AI content being pumped into our VR feed. It is very much open-ended but I do believe we need more economists putting more effort into developing new ideas about economics in this modern world we are entering.
Embracing the Future with Wisdom and Vision
As I mentioned previously we live in a world where we stand on the shoulders of giants. I will not give credit where credit is due and how previous luminaires paved the way so that we could enjoy the benefits and privileges we have to be living in free and open societies versus those who sadly are under horrible regimes and the people in the past who had to sustain the subjugation of ruthless rulers.
The role of individuals and communities is paramount in these times because we have the tools to organize and demand change before things get out of hand, we need to proactively engage with our elected leaders and politicians to develop the regulatory framework required to guide and make the most out of the potential benefits that these technologies offer reducing the risk that it might offer for people.
Also, we must engage with academics and intellectuals working at the fringes like Nick Bostrom, Ray Kurzweil, and others who have been for years speaking about the exponential changes and radical modifications societies, economies, and humanity itself will be having in the coming decades but still their voices and ideas are not adopted by the mainstream we have to engage and bring more people with more ideas about how to enhance and improve humanity and its institutions and give them a much-needed update before more and more freedoms are being eliminated by those who oppose democracy by those who oppose freedom of thought and those who want to impose one single view or doctrine upon millions of people against their will.
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