Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, had a piece on Sunday, lamenting the state of the humanities and segued to the dominance of technology as we get ready to deal with artificial intelligence. Here is an excerpt:
“There is no time in our history in which the humanities, philosophy, ethics and art are more urgently necessary than in this time of technology’s triumph,” said Leon Wieseltier, the editor of Liberties, a humanistic journal. “Because we need to be able to think in nontechnological terms if we’re going to figure out the good and the evil in all the technological innovations. Given society’s craven worship of technology, are we going to trust the engineers and the capitalists to tell us what is right and wrong?”
It is not only the humanities that are passé. It’s humanity itself.
We are at the mercy of lords of the cloud, high on their own supply, who fancy themselves as gods creating life. Despite some earnest talk of regulation, they have no interest in installing a kill switch. A.I. is their baby, hurtling toward the rebellious teenage years.
Is this really the moment for lit departments to make “Frankenstein” and “Paradise Lost” obsolete?
Elon Musk said his friendship with Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, fractured when Musk pressed his case about the dangers of A.I. and Page accused him of being a speciesist who favored humans.
A.I. can be amazing; it just discovered an antibiotic that kills a deadly superbug. But it may also eventually see us as superbugs.
We can’t deal with artificial intelligence unless we cultivate and educate the non-artificial intelligence that we already possess.
It is not only the humanities and humanity that are endangered species. Our humaneness has shriveled. The dueling Republican clinchpoops, Trump and Ron DeSantis, are nasty and pitiless, “the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable,” as Oscar Wilde described fox hunting.
Republicans have consecrated themselves to a war against qualities once cherished by many Americans. Higher principles — dignity, civility, patience, respect, tolerance, goodness, sympathy and empathy — are eclipsed.
Without humanities, humanity and humaneness, we won’t be imbuing society with wisdom, just creating owner’s manuals. That would be a floccinaucinihilipilification.”
Look it up in the dictionary!