Elective Affinities

But if international affairs are to be managed and facilitated in the future through a “learning process” or “social process” as governed by forces such as the balance of power, free trade, and international law, then what is it that in turn will facilitate the learning process and the social process? In short, a “chemical process” known as “elective affinities.” This social science concept of “elective affinities” and in turn a “chemical process” governing the functions and operations of our social world – with our social world now wielding a global scale and scope as a result of globalization and technology – is a corollary or parallel of its natural science basis and source derived and highlighted by enlightenment thinkers such as Goethe and Freud. “Elective affinities” and its basic “chemical process” is thus a natural science concept or principle which enlightenment thinkers have sought to apply to the social sciences and to the social world as a whole. 

The technical and natural science definition of “elective affinities” is: “The tendency of a substance to combine with some specific substances more readily than others.” Max Weber defined “elective affinities” as: “A process by which two cultural forms (e.g. religious, intellectual, political or economic) having certain similarities or kinships enter into a relationship of reciprocal attraction and influence, and mutual reinforcement.” And a more general or simple definition of “elective affinities” is: “The feeling of being attracted to or sympathetic with someone or something.”

An expression that is synonymous with “elective affinities” in the social sciences is “kindred by choice.” As a result, “tribes” and cliques as well as groups, leaders, and followers of a digital and information age and an age of globalization and technology will appear and feel completely different than the tribes and cliques as well as the groups, leaders, and followers of the past, given that these tribes, cliques, groups, leaders, and followers are arising as a result of an operational principle that always existed on a local and national level but is now operating on a global and international level as a result of the rapid advancements in globalization and technology and amidst a digital and information age. Personality and chemistry are the name of the game per se, and as opposed to the traditional factors of identity such as culture, religion, and nationality which brought people and kept people together in the past, in an age of AI and machine learning, it is personality and chemistry which are either bringing people together or are driving them apart on a number of different levels. 

In short, people are either coming together or repelling one another on virtually every level as a result of “elective affinities,” whether it is personal, communal, local, national, or even international. As Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote: “The cumulative effect of the technetronic (or information) revolution is contradictory. On the one hand, this revolution marks the beginnings of a global community; on the other hand, it fragments humanity and detaches it from its traditional moorings.” Brzezinski added: “The technetronic (or information) revolution is widening the spectrum of the human condition. It intensifies the gulf in the material condition of mankind even as it contracts mankind’s subjective tolerance of that disparity.”

Overarching this chemical process or these “elective affinities” on a number of levels is of course “Artificial Intelligence” (AI). In short, this chemical process of “elective affinities” which is manifesting on an international scale and scope is actually playing out and manifesting itself on the interface or platform that is AI. The end goal of the learning process, social process, and chemical process when combined and facilitated by AI, arguably, is the realization of a global “collective consciousness” and a truly “global community” which is undergirded by a collective consciousness that is fostered by the combination and facilitation of a global learning, social, and chemical process. As Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote: “A global human conscience is for the first time beginning to manifest itself. This conscience is a natural extension of the long process of widening man’s personal horizons.”

The breadth and scope of self-identification, as Brzezinski argued, is now expanding virtually everywhere in the world from its familial and tribal and local and national and regional roots to something that is now global and international in nature and scope. But there is still a way left until that vision of a global community undergirded by a collective consciousness is truly realized. As Brzezinski wrote: 

“Indeed, it can be argued that in some respects the divided, isolated, and compartmentalized world of old had more inner cohesion and enjoyed greater harmony than the volatile global reality of today. Established cultures, deeply entrenched traditional religions, and distinctive national identities provided a stable framework and firm moorings; distance and time were the insulators against excessive friction between the compartments. Today, the framework is disintegrating and the insulants are dissolving. The new global unity has yet to find its own structure, consensus, and harmony.” 

The best we can do, in a sense, is to trust the process and to let these various processes play out on both virtual and physical settings and in turn contribute to these processes and partake in these processes in a constructive and helpful way when and where it is possible so that the end goal of global unity and harmony is achieved through the combination of these various processes. 

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