Review of Humanity’s Last Stand by Nicanor Perlas
If you don’t know much about Artificial Intelligence can I urge you to look into it. Nicanor Perlas has observed the forward march of this technology for many years from the inside. He can see that the march is becoming a sprint, which has motivated him to write this eye-opening book.
He awakened to the importance of immersing himself in the topic when he increasingly heard those around describe human beings “as simply being ‘complex biological machines’.”
Nicanor echoes the words of Albert Einstein who was speaking about the unleashed power of the atom,
“Our world faces a crises as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good and evil.”
He calls us to put all our “heads and hearts together” to create alternatives to the “negative or extreme version of AI”.
The first 30 pages of his book paints a grim apocalyptic picture of our world and its inhabitants – us! If we are worried about identity theft and hesitate to use the internet because of this, that is the least of your worries. “After only one minute of recording, AI can now imitate a person’s voice and impersonate that person forever.” Have a look on YouTube for the fake Obama. Then, “In 2017, Facebook shut down its AI because it started to communicate with other AIs, in a language that its human creators can no longer understand.” This is software creating software!
AI will create massive job loss, and soon – the prediction is currently at 5 years but as with all these predictions, unfortunately they happen soon than expected. Universal Basic Income may be a solution but can leave people without a purpose in life.
Nicanor puts forward a very convincing case when he says that humanity has never had this level of freedom, this is a decisive moment in human history with no antecedent.
Nicanor frames his deep connection with, and understanding of, AI with his lifelong study of Anthroposophy, the Spiritual Science developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 1900s. At the core of this work is the idea that human beings have two personas. One is the ‘constructed self’ developed through the environment in which they grow up and live in. The other is the ‘true self’ a higher, purer identity through which we all have the choice to express ourselves in freedom. He admits that this is a work in progress but now more than ever before we are called to become aware of it. Only if we do will be able to use AI for higher purposes, otherwise it will travel down the ‘human beings are nothing more than complex biological machines’ road.
In reality, human qualities leave AI behind as Nicanor convincingly explains. It became clear to me that, in fact, AI is challenging human beings to become aware of whom they truly are. Through our True Self we are much more capable than any AI could ever be. It is the sense of self and the full capability of human thinking that enables true human freedom and sets us apart from AI.
“Part of the preparation is to also understand the nature and mission of Evil. We cannot transform something that we do not understand.”
In my personal study of Rudolf Steiner’s work I have come to understand that evil is necessary, in our awareness of it’s activity we have the impetus to rise above its seduction. At its core, AI seeks to substitute the human being and make it irrelevant. While this is truly misguided, the only way we can ‘convince’ AI is to use for the benefit of mankind.
I urge you to read this book and discuss it with those around you, as Nicanor predicts, we only have 10 to 20 years. Shutting our eyes before a car crash does not prevent the crash.
The detailed references at the back of the book are a rich resource and support every statement Nicanor makes.
These words written in 1951 by William Murray, borrowed from Goethe’s Faust are a clarion call.
“Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
The motivation to do this is not for personal gain but for the progress of the human race from which we shall all gain.