UNTIL only a few years ago, when a journalist or a research scholar required detailed information on a subject that was not readily available in personal documents or, say in the office library, the only solution was to go to the national archives and spend some hours there doing the research. In addition, you were required to have on you a few indispensible elements such as names with correct spellings, city addresses and dates, preferably with months and years too in order to pursue your chase.
The world has changed rapidly! Today even a 10-year-old kid can have all that is needed, and some more, in only a few seconds sitting in a sofa and manipulating a smartphone; and this means not only texts but photos and filmed videos as well.
A book that is causing a great deal of turmoil these days among Parisian intellectual circles is The War of Intelligences in which the author Laurent Alexandre maintains that the rule of intellectual aristocracy is soon to be over and that yesterday’s elites should now be ready to face competition with people who were so far considered no more than a street crowd.
The author says: “In the traditional world the highbrow elites were able to maintain their predomination of the society because of their intellectual superiority. But today’s fast developing electronic brains are invading even the intellectual domains and soon enough there will be overall panic if governments do not take matters in hand seriously.”
Everyone of us, whether an intellectual or a commoner, maintains the author, has the same adversary and our redoubtable enemy, you guessed it right, is no one else but the fast developing artificial intelligence. Computers and smartphones will edge out even teachers in tomorrow’s schools and the role of the educational authorities will be confined only to maintaining some amount of balance between computerised knowledge and human brains.
Laurent Alexandre goes even further: “Time is short and we must do all that is possible to save human intelligence from the onslaught of electronic brains. It goes without saying that our own biological brains must have dominance over computerised knowledge if we are determined to live a normal and healthy life in tomorrow’s world.”
The author points out toward a bleak future if measures are not taken seriously. “Soon enough”, says he, “…the growing power of artificial intelligence will create a sort of apartheid society. There will no longer be the people with higher intelligence who will rule the world but those who have a better grip on computers and other electronic instruments.”
Taking the French revolution as a marking point in the country’s — and the world’s — history, Laurent Alexander says in 1789 it was actually the bourgeoisie that had brought the change in the society in order to deprive the ruling class of the privileges that were accorded to its members because of their virtue of being born in a royal or aristocratic family.
“If things continue as they are”, the author argues, “…the 21st century revolution will be known for having abolished the privileges of intelligence.”
“Let us be courageous enough”, he concludes, “…and try to improve our own brains with the help of scientific knowledge, rather than give it all away to a wholly computerised future.”
The writer is a journalist based in Paris
Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2017