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Aleph-AI: an organizing force or creative destruction in the artificial era?

The Aleph is a blazing space of about an inch diameter containing the cosmos, Jorge Luis Borges told us in 1945, after being invited to see it in the basement of a house. The Aleph deeply disrupted him, revealing millions of delightful and awful scenes simultaneously. He clearly saw everything from all points of the universe, including the sea, the day and the night, every single ant and grain of sand, animals, symbols, sickness and war, the earth, the universe, the stunning alteration of death, scrutinizing eyes, mirrors, precise letters from his beloved, the mechanisms of love, his blood, my face, yours, and apparently that of every single person. Borges felt endless veneration and pity. He feared that nothing else would surprise him after this experience.

Amelia Valcárcel proposes that technological progress equated us with an Aleph with a display of about six inches. She compares Borges’ Aleph with mobile phones, which are accessible to most people. Now, I think we have at our fingertips the third generation of Aleph, what we could call Aleph-AI. We use this new Aleph not only to see everything, but to work from everywhere, communicate whenever we want, get travel directions, play games, search for specific information, trade without borders, conduct banking, take pictures and notes, get instant translations or suggestions for completing a message, get product recommendations that we are likely to buy, listen to a personalized list of music, and perform an endless list of activities powered by AI. Has the 6 inches Aleph-AI become creative destruction, or an organizing force in the artificial era?

Some workers feel threatened with being replaced by AI applications and losing their jobs. Fear has knocked on the doors of several unions, including operators, customer service representatives, artists, manual workers, or office workers. For example, Hollywood artists protest because they fear losing control of their image by being AI simulated and replaced by computational creativity. Customer service representatives fear being replaced by chatbots, manual workers by robots, and office workers by a variety of AI innovations.

On the other hand, economists argue that AI can make us about 40 percent more productive and drive economic growth through the use of a virtual workforce. AI innovations could even generate new revenue streams. In recent years, startups have been growing in record time, thanks to internet connectivity that almost everyone can get on highly accessible devices. Trading products and services hasn’t been as seamless as it is now, thanks to AI innovations in the palm of our hands. Governments can potentially easily apply regulations and taxes through a mixed bag of applications that serve millions over their mobile phones, says Thomas Lembong, who optimistically views this as more of an organizing force than a force of creative destruction.

But we can not deny that some people will suffer from the impacts of this unstoppable force. History shows that every time innovations occur, some people face negative effects and react with fear. When Jacquard looms appeared at the beginning of 1800, artisans united under the name of Luddites. They protested, destroyed, and burned textile fabrics. Skilled textile artisans were frightened by the introduction of a technology operated by workers, who could finish their job at a much faster speed, easily operating Jacquard looms. Some intellectuals supported the Luddite protests. Among them was a well-known poet of the time, Lord George Gordon Byron, Ada Lovelace’s father. Today, Ada Lovelace is recognized as the world’s first programmer and AI forerunner, who could have been fascinated by Jacquard looms’ binary technology, suggests Hannah Fry. Indeed, Ada Lovelace pioneeringly noticed the great potential of computers to perform any complex task, like composing music. Luddite protests lasted two years and died out after the English government enacted the death penalty for those caught destroying fabrics.

Technological progress will follow its path, and we are going to adapt. Did painters disappear when photography appeared? No, they re-invented themselves. Many techniques appeared: impressionism, expressionism, cubism, and abstract art, to mention a few. Previously, painters made a living from portraits. Today, we take selfies. How many of you have hired a painter for a portrait? With Aleph-AIs in our hands, we retouch pictures taken on our own. Will actors be entirely replaced by AI? Not happening. The changes in the film industry will be led by a group of professionals, including artists, computer scientists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and policymakers. This will be the case in every sector and industry. Will there be suffering? Change is suffering. Change is new possibilities. Change could be re-thinking what we want for the future during the artificial era.

Feature image by Anna Bliokh via iStock.

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