The futures of futures studies
Pushing the boundaries of futures thinking
25 October 2023 (Wednesday), 04:00-04:30, ONLINE

Does the rise of ‘intelligent’ machines imply the decline of human agency?

The emergence of so-called ‘intelligent’ machines has been welcomed by many who believe the gains more than compensate for the costs. The welcome is particularly strong on the part of those who look forward to the merging of humans with machines, foreshadowing a post-human future. They anticipate a ‘singularity’ when human life is ‘uploaded’ into the kind of machine complex widely portrayed (and critiqued) in Science Fiction. For them this is ‘progress’ big time that will provide solutions to all of humanity’s problems.

To many others, however, notions of high-tech futures tend to suggest deeply threatening nightmares of perpetual dystopia. Either way, even a cursory overview of present trends suggests that high-tech futures are coming, and coming fast, whether we like it or not.

Moving beyond such polarities, the paper suggests that we might usefully re-focus on questions regarding values and human agency. For example, we can ask: just what exactly is the ‘bargain’ being offered by the ‘technocapitalist’ version of modernity? What is humanity giving away, or losing, as high-tech innovations make ever more significant inroads to our identity, self-understanding, goals and purposes? What values arguably drive the seemingly endless expansion and growth of technical systems? And what values and human capacities are called forth by this ‘civilisational challenge?’

Finally, the paper does not attempt to propose ‘solutions’ as such but to pose ‘generative questions’ that seek a different balance between human agency and technical means.

Sole practitioner
Foresight International

Video of the event

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