Are we facing the bitter end of the Enlightenment?

Henry Kissinger said that he thought that having AI would put an end to the Enlightenment. Let’s revisit the Enlighenment and consider the fruits that it gave the Western World and by extension under globalization the fruits that it shared with other parts of the world outside of the West.

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First of all, the Enlightenment was the crucible that formed modern nation states with limited powers of government under legislative agreements. Enlightenment thinking led people to believe that the notion that kings have divine rights is an absurd notion. Rationalism helped people to understand that no human being has perfect knowledge or infinite power. For this reason, kings shouldn’t be granted unlimited powers.

It was Enlightenment thinking that helped us understand that different people want different things. Enlightenment thinking relied on humanism and rationalism. Humanism recognizes the ability of people to choose a better life for themselves and their children. Rationalism assumes that people can think for themselves and understand the world around them. When the Enlightenment joined forces with the scientific revolution the West enjoyed a technology boom that improved the way humans live.

Today, many are imagining another boom under artificial intelligence while others see AI as a threat. Apparently Kissinger, in saying that AI could cause the end of the Age of Enlightenment, believed that AI is a threat to humanism and rationalism. He may also have seen it as a threat to the nation state and and existential threat to all of humanity.

Books about social media talk about chaos stirred into politics under curated online content. People get different information when they access online sources and their information feed is supervised by algorithms that are meant to increase engagement and by extension, increase profits. An algorithm isn’t AI and yet algorithms are already making political accord more difficult to acheive for all of us.

Some of the propaganda about mRNA inoculation isn’t remotely rational and is even an affront to rational discourse. Whatever you think about it, remember the fruits of the Enlightenment as you engage with that irrational messaging. Remember how wonderful humanism and rationalism are for human communities. Ask yourself if propaganda messaging accords with the traditions of humanism and rationalism.

Is there an AI program promoting a new political agenda free of humanism and rationalism? Maybe it’s just monopoly power in a political system being damaged by large money interests in concert with gross corruption among political players.

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