by system failure
In the famous movie “The Matrix”, machines are presented as evil, enslaved people using them for energy. But when agent Smith captures Morfeas, he says some interesting things to him: “I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure.” Of course, Mr. Smith's view could be characterised as simplified, or, extremely cynical, but who could blame him when we look our civilization today?
Mr. Smith's view is totally compatible with the modern perception of economic growth. Countries struggle to stay alive in a global arena of cruel competition, where the top priority is the ongoing, unlimited growth. Economic growth at any cost, by any means, is the only answer for progress and prosperity inside our current system of values.
As the economic crisis hit many countries globally, the "need" for growth became a matter of life and death. When the bubble economy in the past years, especially during 90s, was distributing fake prosperity only to take it back a few decades later, the West had a chance to abandon an unstable version of capitalism and turn to an economic model which could bring us closer to the desirable balance with nature, more wise use of the natural resources, with the help of technology.
One step forward, two (or more) steps back
When the economic crisis hit the West, suddenly, every goal towards the direction of balance has been almost abandoned. The totally unstable and unequal model of financialised capitalism "rewarded" those who brought the distraction with more billions and threw entire countries to a cruel survival struggle. And now, these countries are begging for investments and growth from the same institutions that created this mess.
Prior to the crisis, there was a tension for investments in clean energy. For example, European Union set some goals for 2020, concerning the increasing penetration of renewable energy systems inside the energy mixture of the EU, combined with specific targets for the restriction of carbon emissions. Even Obama made some statements, that forms of clean energy could bring growth and jobs as a solution to the destruction by the crisis. All these things now appear to be left behind because the goal is only one: Unlimited growth at any cost.
Instead of using part of the liquidity to invest in sectors of green energy and environmental projects, every state directed all of the liquidity to the bankers who do not care, of course, if the planet needs another, truly viable model. Add to all these the geopolitical games with oil pipes and you have a pretty good picture of the two (or more) steps backwards.
Meanwhile, the population increases together with the energy consumption and environmental pollution. Scientists warn about the implications in the close future for the environment and the natural resources, but only few appear to be truly concerned. Politicians surrendered to the oligarchs only to keep alive a failed model in every aspect.
Our "civilized" system of values
As a civilization, we abandoned classical values and classical terms. The language has been relativized and the line between good and bad, right and wrong, has almost vanished. It was supposed that we should be more wiser from this process of abandoning the interpretation of meanings in absolute terms, yet our civilization turned out to be more primitive in the cultural level.
A whole system took advantage of these new conditions. It has transformed planet earth into a global arena of ruthless competition with profit as the only ultimate goal. Someone asks a trader in the food stock market, how does he feel knowing that his actions may lead thousands to hunger in another corner of the planet, and all he gets as an answer is "that's my job, that's what I do", like devil's advocate, Kevin Lomax. In fact, he doesn't even understand the question!
Or, "What's the social benefit from a lot of highly trained PhDs in physics using exceptionally expensive technology across the world to be able to set derivatives prices in a split second? Why set them in a split second? Set them in an hour. Set them in a day. Never set them at all. What's the benefit?", as Costas Lapavitsas masterfully wondered.
Economic cynicism is absolutely dominant in the core or our system of values. Instead of trying to change this one-dimensional thinking, we preserve it through our actions. The whole system drives societies deeper into this vicious circle, as more and more people are struggling to survive.
Poor Ayn ...
In her famous novel “Atlas Shrugged”, Ayn Rand describes a situation where an elite of industrialists, abruptly disappearing, leaving their industries to failure. At that time, the novel was not very successful, perhaps because Rand couldn't probably imagine what would be the impact in case that all the workers, farmers, schoolteachers and generally, ordinary working class people, would disappear.
Rand was one of the key people who contributed to the creation of this culture of economic cynicism and extreme individualism. A fundamental aspect of this culture, is that societies are guided to progress and prosperity by an elite of a few charismatic individuals, motivated by personal interest, while the state is the enemy of freedom and prosperity.
Well, here comes the surprise. We are now in a phase where an economically powerful elite is automating all the production process, trying also to control all the resources. Quite soon, big businesses will be able to use exclusively robots instead of human labour.
So, does Ayn Rand, surprisingly, turns that she was right? Rather not, because two major problems arise: First, if all the production is automatized and the workers lose their jobs, who will consume the products? Second, what if super-intelligent machines will become able to evolve without the help of any human presence?
"Cold blood" robots vs cynical humans
We should start to wonder: is it worth to continue to ruin our planet just to self-destruct one day? Wouldn't be better to be replaced by something which would understand the value of achieving an equilibrium with natural environment in order to survive?
Many people already concerned about the possibility that super-intelligent machines in future will turn against humans. Scientists already warned about such a scenario. But honestly, if you were an observer outside the system of the planet earth, who would be more odious to you: a cynical human being destroying the planet just to preserve a way of life without meaning, or, a “cold blood” robot that would decide to destroy humans to save the planet and its resources?
What is really the point of preserving such a civilization? A stagnated situation of people who are struggling to survive, consume, or, chasing profit? How we differ from parasites who keep consuming because they don't understand that they live in a planet with certain limits and resources?
What if Artificial Intelligence is meant to be the next step of human evolution itself? What difference does it make when we progressively abolishing human conquered concepts, like morality, from our culture? If we want truly evolve, as humanity, we need to bring back morality. We need to develop concepts like solidarity, altruism, collectivity and put them in the core of our civilization. Otherwise, it would make no difference - and probably would be better - to be replaced by super-intelligent machines.