Human Flourishing Takeoff vis-à-vis Artificial Intelligence Takeoff

A significant challenge of Artificial Intelligence is that it will reach its singularity—its takeoff, its intelligence explosion— before we reach the singularity of human flourishing. AI takeoff, or singularity, poses many challenges to society. For example, key-figures like Elon Musk are warning us about it, not because of AI itself, but of its use. And behind this reality what all of us are thinking is: society is not prepared for an AI revolution.

What exactly does ‘not prepared’ mean? Instead of answering that question immediately, lets look at it differently: what would have to happen in order for society to be prepared for that threat? The answer: human flourishing. In a nutshell, flourishing occurs when authenticity, meaning and purposeful lives emerge. Human flourishing happens when people are ready to listen, forgive, interiorize the Other and learn from mistakes.

Society is working towards development, not towards self-governing citizens, let alone flourishing citizens. Not even the so-called developed countries, which are more likely to be the ones who develop AI, are changing their education and socialization schemes in order to reach the singularity of human flourishing before the singularity of AI. Governance of AI should focus more on this challenge, and less on creating legal frameworks, so abuses of power with AI will be less likely happen. If not, the reality could be read as this:

Don’t worry about AI, we’ll find alternative jobs, even if people feel miserable.

Why are global leaders more focused on being developed than being civilized? Why are the CEOs of Trans National Corporations not more concerned? Remember that Jim Collins found out that within almost 1,500 Fortune500 companies, only 11 had a humble CEO. Within that environment, it is hardly surprising that human flourishing is rarely prioritized in the workplace. Humility and human flourishing go hand in hand. Deloitte found in 2015 that only 7% of a global sample of medium and big companies had a structured program to achieve engagement of the environments and employees in their workplaces. The result: 86% of employees in the formal workplaces in the Western hemisphere go for their paycheck. According to Gallup’s annual surveys—this situation has not improved in the last 5 years, but has actually deteriorated.

Similarly disturbing trends can be seen in other traditional measures of human happiness. When it comes to Family—there is a more than 50% divorce rate; in Education—bullying and cheating are persistent; and in human development—happiness and development are inversely correlated, since only 1 in 3 Americans are very happy. In addition, 1 out of 10 adults in 2015 in USA had a feeling of worthlessness most of the time.

So the three ‘social institutions’ mentioned are in crisis, and they are, supposedly, the ones in charge of education and socialization. No wonder we, as humanity, deep down inside, are very worried about the singularity of AI potentially coming in 30 years—or in half that time if quantum computing shows more promise.

The irony: in front of our faces we have a solution. Worldwide there are proven experiences that are changing these social epidemics, these anti-engagement, anti-flourishing conundrums. For example, MorningStar is the leading Tomato producer in the United States, highly competitive and innovative. How they did it? They fired all the managers, people put their own salaries, their own schedules, and can rotate every six months to any area of the company. Gary Hamel’s HBR article presented this. See the TEDx in this blog for more business cases.

So why don’t leaders want to see and implement them now? And here is the vicious circle: they were socialized in a framework of command & control. And when educating kids within the command and control paradigm, adults can’t see these human flourishing alternatives.

Educate the child, and you won’t have to punish the adult.

This phrase would be read as:

Control the child, and you will have a purposeless society.

There are thousands of companies in the world that have redefined control. It has not disappeared, but it has evolved. If significantly more workplaces were to adopt this corporate culture, we could minimize the threat of AI, at least in these social institutions —that is my humble hypothesis.

Please see my TEDx talk for more information about human flourishing—it has English subtitles. More than that, try to feel it. Please don’t rationalize it. Don’t start saying ‘that is not possible!!! That couldn’t happen in my company, ever’—as it actually happened the day of the TEDx talk for some of the audience. And if you want to know more about these human-flourishing global initiatives, please visit: B-corporations, Humanistic Management, Self-Management and Gary Hamel’s MIX, among others. They are changing reality. But the pace of this transformation is not prepared to keep up with the increasing free availability being given to AI. If we don’t prioritize human flourishing now and begin optimizing AI systems for that purpose, we may have Elon Musk’s premonition.

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