AI Creating A Nascent Post-Industrial Civilization – Part I

By Rufus Lidman, Digital Disruptor, Board Member AIAR, CDO OKQ8

November 11, 2023

It is often said that the journey towards insights and clarity sometimes feels like becoming “confused at a higher level”. Having spent three days with an exclusively invited and admirably diverse group of world leaders from 50 countries at Global Horasis, I can confidently say that I now feel “optimistic at a higher level”. This sentiment comes at a time when such optimism – coupled with the passion, innovation, and persistence it fosters – is needed more than ever. In various panels, we delved into numerous themes regarding innovation, sustainability, and reconstruction. The panel I chaired was one of the most visited, due to a theme hotter than anything else 2023 – i.e., the potential of AI as a tool to better humanity. Based on some decades of international experience and research in the subject, added with the first class sparring and inspiration from tons on world leaders, not least in Horasis, below I am sharing my view of the subject. Buckle up!!

The Theme of AI 

 As always, a lot of this inspiration comes from our benefactor @Frank-Jürgen Richter, tirelessly again organizing and structuring the most crucial event of the year, Horasis Global Meeting. But equal inspiration from participants like ministers, CEO:s, experts and professors who engaged in intense dialogues, bringing forth beautiful arguments and insights from diverse backgrounds, experiences, cultures, and mindsets regarding a vast array of themes within innovation, sustainability, and reconstruction. 

The specific panel on AI was made up of a diverse set of experts within AI, tech entrepreneurship and finance from an equally diverse set of markets like Spain, Switzerland, Nigeria, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, and USA. And then, of course, me the less categorizable one (citizenship in Sweden and USA, company in Singapore, work in 30 countries, lived in 5 – bio at the end). Below I let myself be inspired by all the different perspectives of my fellow panel colleagues, while taking the full responsibility for any arguments made. 

The theme for the AI panel was that the novelty of AI and its applications seem capable of creating an evolutionary new world, a post-industrial work and leisure space. The panel was here to tackle several big global questions, where the concrete topics we came to deep dive in can be generalized to two: 

  1. If the disruption generated by AI would be any different than other emerging technologies (EmTech) in history of mankind
  2. Whether massive AI adoption will have any negative impact on our freedom and other social implications, or if it instead can be used to assess the fairness of governments and companies as to safeguard that freedom. 

In this article we are focusing on the former, while cliff hanging the second to a following article. 

The most important question to be asked

The first and biggest question was whether AI is different? Or, more specifically, whether the disruption generated by AI would be any different than other emerging technologies (EmTech) in history of mankind. From my side the question is another. 

I think the most crucial question instead is what made humans at the top of the food chain on this planet.

Was it because we were the strongest? No, the Lions were stronger. Because we were the biggest? No, the elephants were. Perhaps we were the most dangerous? No, here the snakes outweigh anyone. So maybe it’s about the speed, that we where the fastest? No, here the cheetah totally rules. 

Instead, the main differentiator for mankind at the beginning of our evolution, was our intelligence. 

The brutally much larger brain, with its possibilities for movement in both time and space – ie. to imagine ourselves in other rooms than the ones we are in, real as well as imaginary, as well as moving forward and backward in time in our heads. All in order to be able to invent things that can help us move to these other spaces, learn from the past and improve existence in our future.

 While we as animals have maintained reproduction as our single greatest drive, our second drive has been to take on difficult challenges based on our superior brain, which provide us with rich experiences that in turn make us evolve as individuals and society – so that we together managed to achieve things that ancient people would not see as anything but miracles.

It was nothing but this intelligence that made us so advanced that we outmaneuvered just about every other life on Earth, and – for better or for worse – made us rulers of the planet (and further down the lane, added with our ability to communicate and share the intellectual fruits and artefacts of that intelligence, but that’s another story – where we’re adding AR and blockchain to the equation).

What got us to where humanity is today

So, when we’re now inventing a technology that is as intelligent, or even more intelligent than us, will the impact of that be any different from other technologies we’ve invented? 

Here the word “different” is nothing but an understatement. As AI develops both in depth (AGI and GAI etc.) and in breadth (permeating more and more verticals in the lives of more and more billions of people), at the same time as data is democratized, the change will be so fundamentally dramatic as we have to invent a new word – revolution or disruption will not suffice. 

Joe Rogan might not be on top of the list for academics and ministers, but regardless of whether one agrees with the reasoning or not the dialogue Rogan had with Sam Altman last month will belong to public education in the field. 

 Well, Altman there claimed that two fundamental things have driven society since the first societies in Mesopotamia (which we during the Horasis event were placed in the northwestern corner of) is intelligence and energy.

While intelligence has provided us with the tools and insights to shape our world, energy has given us the power to realize these visions. Humanity’s ability to harness and transform energy, has been central to the progress of our civilization. From taming fire, which provided us with warmth, protection, and the ability to cook food, to harnessing wind, water, and other natural resources to power machines and build infrastructure. 

In modern times, the discovery and use of the steam engine, fossil fuels, as well as the development of electricity, have revolutionized the way we live, work, and communicate. Energy has enabled everything from industrial revolutions to the digital era.

What this will bring into the future

Today this evolution is to implode. When progressing with the exponential curve we now initiated, AI will eventually generate an abundance of intelligence, which in turn will further boost the rapid advancement of CleanTech which will give us an abundance of energy. 

Already with existing solar and wind technology today, Carbon Tracker – who is not usually optimistic – shows it is possible to generate 100 times more energy than the global need, on 0.3% of the world’s land area, less than for today’s fossil infrastructure. And when this potential will be tackled by an abundance of intelligence, it won’t even stop there. 

While science of technology has showed us that the effect of new technology is by far not deterministic but rather depending on the dialectic between certain contextual factors and agency, I would say that depending on decisions and actions from us, world leaders and others, the upcoming abundance of intelligence and energy will have consequences on at least four levels, in consequential order. 

1. Technological Consequences: AI’s capability to solve complex problems, optimize systems, and build upon the knowledge of previous generations, will with AGI step up the game to next level of superintelligence. The result will be an accelerated innovation, potentially advancing research in areas such as medicine, space exploration, and materials science etc., 

2. Planetary Consequences: The biggest area of innovation will be a dramatic boost of CleanTech in order to save our planet and the existence of mankind on this planet. An abundance of cheap and sustainable energy will lead to a drastic reduction and, eventually, elimination of the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. This will have positive impacts on climate change, air quality, biodiversity, and a reduction in environmental degradation and habitat loss.

3. Economic Consequences: The technological and planetary consequences will generative and economic boom due to reduced energy costs and the advanced technology within each field, while AI will automate and optimize a vast array of work processes, leading to increased productivity and efficiency within businesses.

4. Social Consequences: All this will lead to ethical considerations surrounding the use of AI, including issues of privacy, security, human rights, and the risk of resource monopolization. There will be huge cultural shifts, where AI’s ability to create, compose music, write, and more, will influence how culture is produced and consumed.

The major mega-disruption

So, let’s go back to the original question: will the effect AI be any different than any other tech? Well, it’s not like where’ inventing the Tamagotchi here, no? Intelligence is what brought mankind to the top of the food chain. And with an abundance of intelligence, and the abundance of energy it will render, there will be technological, planetary, economic, and social consequences so dramatic, as we will not even recognize this planet ever again. 

Mark my word. If you forget everything else from this article, remember this: this world will never, ever be the same again – and you won’t even know what hit you. 

And so, to the next crucial question. Will this insanely dramatic change lead to something good or bad? More on that in the next article 😉