Global Nervous System

Whereas in the past there was only David Axelrod’s snares and traps to fall into, there are now a variety of snares and traps to fall into in this day and age. And much of it has to do with the nature and the speed of communications in a digital and information age. As Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote: “But while our immediate reality is being fragmented, global reality increasingly absorbs the individual, involves him, and even occasionally overwhelms him.” Brzezinski added: “Communications are the obvious, already much discussed, immediate cause.” 

Hence, much of the changes, evolutions, and transformations resulting from a social process in a digital and information is the result of increased communications. As Brzezinski wrote: “The changes wrought by communications and computers make for an extraordinarily interwoven society whose members are in continuous and close audio-visual contact – constantly interacting, instantly sharing the most intense social experiences, and prompted to increased personal involvement in even the most distant problems.” And the ones driving the process are largely young people, given that: “The new generation no longer defines the world exclusively on the basis of reading, either of ideologically structured analyses or of extensive descriptions; it also experiences and senses it vicariously through audio-visual communications.” 

All of it put together, the result and the outcome is “a nervous, agitated, tense, and fragmented web of interdependent relations.” Moreover, this web of interdependent relations are “better characterized by interaction than by intimacy.” And in turn, everything is changing and moving instantaneously and with lightning speed. As Brzezinski wrote: “Instant communications are already creating something akin to a global nervous system. Occasional malfunctions of this nervous system – because of blackouts or breakdowns – will be all the more unsettling, precisely because the mutual confidence and reciprocally reinforcing stability that are characteristic of village intimacy will be absent from the process of that ‘nervous’ interaction.”

Everyone is being drawn into an “intensified involvement in global affairs” as a result of the aforementioned. And no one is immune from what is going on around them or from what is going on in the broader world. As Brzezinski wrote: “Physical and moral immunity to ‘foreign’ events cannot be very effectively maintained under circumstances in which there are both a growing intellectual awareness of global interdependence and the electronic intrusion of global events into the home.” In turn, perceptions of both global affairs and of global reality have changed virtually everywhere. But these changes in perception as well changes in our physical reality, as Brzezinski argued, has led to more fragmentation and uncertainty rather than leading to consensus and certainty. It follows that fragmentation and uncertainty have to result in a certain level of anarchy and instability. 

And as mentioned before, artificial intelligence (AI) and technology means that there is something more complex, intelligent, and scientific than culture, tradition, and values which are driving forward all of the aforementioned issues and points. Henry Kissinger wrote: “As increasingly sophisticated AI is used to enable network platforms, it shapes social and commercial arrangements on a national and global scale.” AI undoubtedly interjects itself into the flow and exchange of information as well as into the formation of connections and social groups on a variety of platforms. And as Kissinger wrote: “This dynamic potentially affects social and political outcomes – regardless of the platform operators’ intentions. Each day, individual users and groups influence one another rapidly and at vast scales across countless interactions – particularly when shaped by complex, AI-driven recommendations; as a result, operators may not have a clear understanding of what is occurring in real time. And the complexities are magnified if the operator injects (wittingly or unwittingly) their own values and purposes.” 

Given what is now the all-pervasiveness and ubiquity of AI in economic, political, and social life, our fundamental choice comes down to whether we seek to challenge, partner with, or totally acquiesce to AI as it shapes our choices, changes, and direction in life because there is no escaping AI from now on. And in the end – as well as by process of elimination – challenging AI and totally acquiescing to AI would not work, for the latter means we are brainless which we are not, and the former means taking on a force with capabilities and powers which exceed ours. As a result, we are basically left with no choice but to partner with AI as it takes us into new frontiers and as it expands our human horizons.

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