Why Aristotle and Nietzsche matter in our AI driven world.

Innovations in science and technology have been fast and furious in the last century and especially the last decade. This is in sharp contrast to the fact that ethical thought leaders, philosophers and psychologists like the Buddha, Aristotle, Confucius, Tagore, and Freud have not really flourished of late.

This has led to sharp erosion of the value system with gung-ho technologists pushing the boundaries. In 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui came a step closer to playing God – he had successfully altered the DNA in the embryos of twin girls to prevent them catching HIV. It was the first move to combine the technologies of genome editing and assisted reproduction for human use. Though both technologies
are researched and individually developed by many pharma and biotech companies worldwide, combining the two is still considered unethical.

Where are the philosophers, the writers, the poets ?

But what is really hurting is that the 21 st century has seen no philosophers of the calibre of Bertrand Russell or Jean Paul Sartre, no writers and poets like William Shakespeare, Voltaire or Pablo Neruda, no ethical thought leaders like Gandhi or Martin Luther King. As a matter of fact after the arrival of the computer age post 1950s the global industry started luring away the best brains towards technology,
building assets and expanding across the globe. In came the baby boomers, and out went humility, creativity and compassion. The focus was on science, technology and commerce. Philosophy went out of fashion because it posed a lot of questions with no definite answers, while the digital world provided real solutions. Ethics took a backseat as it usually posed searching questions that hampered competition and
hence excellence. Creativity, art or music was completely remodelled to help profitable business.

Here is a contra view from Academy of Ideas which says why philosophers like Nietzsche have solutions for problems of today.

The Academy of Ideas in a thoroughly researched video points out that the German philosopher had foreseen and addressed problems of “digital addiction, social media shaming, virtue signalling, academic censorship and the rise and worship of new god of statism”. Quoting Nicholas Carr from the Pulitzer Prize nominated book ‘The Shallows’ they show how digital addiction is affecting our brains and harms cognitive analysis. We are no longer delving deep into knowledge and holding thoughts in our brain that helps us to analyse, evolve and create. Instead we are becoming hunter gathers of electronic data and just presenting the same to showcase our understanding of a subject.

They also talk about the madness of the mob and their determination to force their point of view on all others. Socrates was a victim of mob violence because the mob of Athens thought that what he professed was harmful for the citizens. But the power of the mob has increased manifold in the digital age as one can be cruel, spiteful and vindictive on any individual through social media. You can harass others across the world without moving out of your home and the collective power of million critiques and hurtful comments from the social media called trolling can be overwhelming.

Growth and Uncertainty Rose

The computer age has led to 50 years of heady growth, inequality, volatility and political turbulence just before the 21 st century kicked in. Not surprisingly we have witnessed the unprecedented rise of global terrorism in this century with the brazen, unprovoked attack on the twin towers in 2001. This was followed by uprooting of long standing regimes in the middle east by pro democracy activists backed by the west,
that led to the unintended birth of the Taliban, the Al Qaida, the Hamas and several other terror groups which filled the political vacuum created by the overthrown dictators.

Also we saw the emergence of contagion wars across Europe and the Middle East culminating in a long drawn confrontation in Ukraine and Gaza. The arrival of the pandemic and the end of 50 years of globalisation added fuel to the fire. The trade war between the US and China has assumed mammoth proportions and the sanctions on Russia split the global supply chain with two or more distinctive supply
routes. Unfortunately even these broken up supply chains are insecure with each being attacked digitally and physically by several forces. There is lot of uncertainty in today’s world despite apparent development and prosperity.

The world has completely changed in the last twenty years. Is it due to the dearth of philosophers, poets and thinkers? I leave it for you to think and decide.