In the wake of the Alpine Fellowship on Human Flourishing in Fjallnas, Sweden last week, I’ve been reading Lisa Miller’s book The Awakened Brain. Miller makes what my daughter says is an obvious argument, that mental illness and especially depression and anxiety can be prevented and also helped by having a rich spiritual and inner life. Hannah Arendt isn’t mentioned in Miller’s book, but the fundamental idea underlying Miller’s work is the Arendtian worry about the loss of meaningfulness, the absence of purpose, and the feeling of abandonment that has become widespread in the modern world.
Esmeralda Colombo turns to Hannah Arendt’s work on law, constitutionalism, and participatory democracy to argue for ways to limit state sovereignty and increase citizen participation in government through work on cli
As we struggle to contemplate the impact of humanly developed but now inhumanly powerful artificially intelligent machines, we would do well to recall some of the lessons Arendt drew already from the victory of science and the modern age. Arendt wrote in the Human Condition that the “mathematization of physics, by which the absolute renunciation of the senses for the purpose of knowing was carried through, had in its last stages the unexpected and yet plausible consequences that every question man puts to nature is answered in terms of mathematical patterns to which no model can ever be adequate, since one would have to be shaped after our sense experience.” For Arendt, this separation between “thought and sense experience” means that man can create a man-made reality that defies the human capacity to understand or predict that world. In a similiar way, Slavoj Zizek approaches the present panic around the rise of artificial intelligence. He argues that what will come from artificial intelligence is not simply domination by those who control them, but surprise on the part of those who have created machines they cannot control.
webinar and Q&A about our Fellowship for High School teachers to bring deliberative democracy into the classroom.
On the 20th anniversary of America’s war in Iraq, there is a whole lot of taking stock. James Bennet argues that the War in Iraq helped undermine the American consensus at home and around the world. It is the cynicism that the Iraq war unleashed that opened the door for the rise of Donald Trump at home and other demagogues abroad.
The Hannah Arendt Center will collaborate with the Vienna Digital Humanism Initiative on ChatGPT to convene the first Digital Humanism Leadership Summit on A.I. & Democratic Sustainability in Vienna (3-5 July 2023).
Yuval Harari offers another, more dismal, take on the rise of AI. We need to learn to master AI before it masters us. Harari calls upon world leaders to rise to the challenge of AI: to master it and make it useful for us, while limiting its capabilities to destroy the humanity that gave it life. Harari sees the real danger from AI in its ability to consume our human culture.
Jaron Lanier is “the godfather of virtual reality.” Always one of the most original thinkers on technology, Lanier takes on the recent obsession about Chat GPT and other “large language models” by arguing, provocatively, that AI does not exist: .”My attitude is that there is no AI. What is called AI is a mystification, behind which there is the reality of a new kind of social collaboration facilitated by computers. A new way to mash up our writing and art.”