Philosopher Jay Richards, author of The Human Advantage, discusses with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks the dystopia that historian Yuval Noah Harari feels the Digital Age is sure to be. That is, according to his recent piece in The Atlantic, “Why Technology Favors Tyranny”
The podcast is here, along with the topic headings. From the Show Notes:
Will infotech and biotech erode human agency, subvert human desires, and render free-market economics obsolete? At first glance, there looks to be a wide gap between the future of AI and the destruction of democracy. Some futurists claim to have jumped that chasm. In a cheery little column published by the Atlantic, Yuval Noah Harari posits AI will ultimately destroy democracy and favor Digital Dictatorships. What is his argument and does it hold water?
Richards finds such dystopias “silly.” The idea that machines are capable of replacing us is the topic of many books he has read but, he argues,
The thing that really distinguishes us is a capacity for developing virtue.” because if you can develop virtue, you have agency, you have first-person experience, you have the capacity to choose between alternatives for a purpose.
And the chief virtue, the one that sets us apart, is the one I call “creative freedom,” the ability to train and constrain ourselves so that we can do something meaningfully that we could not have otherwise done. Insofar as that kind of freedom is the origin of new kinds of meaningful information, I think we ought to be more hopeful than worried that in an information economy there will be a place where the human person is at the very center.
See also: Jay Richards: Creative freedom, not robots, is the future of work
Is free will a dangerous myth? Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor argues that Harari’s denial of free will is “a much more dangerous myth”