Woe, the Humanity: How AI Fits into Rising Anti-Humanism

The future of humanity is becoming ever less human. The astounding capabilities of ChatGPT and other forms of artificial intelligence have triggered fears about the coming age of machines leaving little place for human creativity or employment. Even the architects of this brave new world are sounding the alarm. Sam Altman, chairman and CEO of OpenAI, which developed ChatGPT, recently warned that artificial intelligence poses an “existential risk” to humanity and warned Congress that artificial intelligence “can go quite wrong.”

While history is littered with apocalyptic predictions, the new alarms are different because they are taking place amid broad cultural forces that suggest human beings have lost faith in themselves and connections with humanity in general.

The new worldview might best be described as anti-humanism. This notion rejects the idea that human beings are perennially ingenious, socially connected creatures capable of wondrous creations – religious scripture, the plays of Shakespeare, the music of Beethoven, the science of Einstein. Instead, it casts people, society, and human life itself as a problem. Instead of seeing society as a tool to help people to build and flourish, it stresses the need to limit the damage humanity might do.

Many climate change activists, for example, argue that humanity’s extinction could be a net plus for planet earth. State-sanctioned euthanasia, which just a few years ago was considered a radical assault on the sanctity of life, is becoming common practice in many Western countries – available not just to the terminally ill but those who are just tired of living.

All this is taking place as social science research reveals that people are increasingly cutting themselves off from one another. The traditional pillars of community and connection ‒ family, friends, children, church, neighborhood ‒ have been withering, fostering an everyday existence defined for many people by loneliness. The larger notion of human beings as constituting a larger, collective project with some sense of common goal is being replaced by a solipsistic individualism, which negates the classical liberal values of self-determination and personal freedoms in a worldview that nullifies the societies they built.

These trends, which have been studied largely in isolation, could be amplified by the ascendance of artificial intelligence. As humanity wrestles with powerful new technologies, a growing body of research suggests that a more fundamental question may be whether human beings are willing to shape their own legacy in the new world order.

Anti-humanism has a long history – it can be traced back at least to Thomas Malthus, who warned in 1789 that overpopulation was the greatest threat to human prosperity. Although the British economist and cleric was not hostile to humanity and his dark predictions never came true, his claim that people are the problem has provided the cri de coeur for the modern environmental movement. In 1968, the biologist Paul Ehrlich’s best-seller “The Population Bomb,” which expressed horror at the proliferation of people, prophesied that continued surges in population would lead to mass starvation. Ehrlich and his acolytes urged extreme measures to stave off disaster, including adding sterilant to the water supply to prevent human reproduction.

These views have not gone away. The big business-funded Club of Rome report, issued in 1972, embraced an agenda of austerity and retrenchment to stave off population-driven mass starvation and social chaos. Humanity’s ancient effort to create safety and comfort – its commitment to progress and prosperity – was cast as a lethal threat.

Read the rest of this piece at Real Clear Investigations.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Samuel J. Abrams is a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Homepage photo: cottonbro studio

Kill Off the Old City So New Cities Can Be Born

After decades of self-celebration and relentless media hype, the great “urban renaissance” predicted by the New Urbanists—a vision of cities built by and for the creative class—has come crashing down. Where the smart set once proclaimed that mayors should rule the world or that economic growth would increasingly cluster in a handful of super cities, now even The New York Times bleakly warns of an “urban doom loop.”

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Even Progressive Voters Don’t Like Racial Affirmative Action

As the Supreme Court moves towards its expected affirmative action ruling, a backlash among supporters of racial quotas is already brewing. One magazine, The Nation, suggests that the lawyer pleading the case for Asian American students is serving the cause of “white supremacy”, while top college presidents, interviewed on PBS, predict that any move to curb race quotas would constitute a “disaster.” Some schools are going a step further by exploring how to get around the potential new law — just as corporations, always keen to please the chattering classes, do the same thing.

Affirmative action is not a winning issue for progressives. Indeed, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, as well as roughly half of African Americans, say that colleges should not factor race and ethnicity into the admissions process. Asian Americans are even more hostile to the idea: one recent national poll found that four in 10 of the group saw affirmative action as “racist” and more than half welcomed a Supreme Court ruling outlawing it.

The fundamental flaw with affirmative action is that it directly contradicts what the Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal defined as “the American creed” — a notion, too often ignored, embracing equal opportunity for all its citizens. But where the early goals of the Civil Rights movement backed this ideal, the new affirmative action regime embraces race-based discrimination as an unadulterated good.

This approach has led to a rise in discriminatory policies against Asian Americans, now the country’s fastest-growing minority. Nowhere is this more evident than via the  “Asian penalty” that comes into effect when applying for college: according to research from Princeton University, students who identify as Asian must score 140 points higher on the SAT than white Americans and 450 points higher than black Americans to have the same chance of admission to private colleges.

Like Jewish people before them, Asian Americans have benefited from the end of racial discrimination and the consequent rise of meritocracy. They have the highest per-capita income, lowest per-capita crime rates and highest rates of college education in the US. But instead of praising this group for transcending racism, affirmative action advocates prefer to attack them. They are now, it appears, the beneficiaries of  “white privilege”, and dismissed as “white-adjacent”.

If the court rules in favour of Asian American students, don’t expect the Biden administration to embrace the decision. Racialism, along with climate change catastrophism, defines the current White House. The real focus, however, should not be on improving the lives of one racial group ahead of another but instead on helping those most in need. Ethnic minorities now constitute over 40% of the US working class and will soon be the majority by 2032. Their economic needs should be prioritised by creating better jobs, improving skills training and reducing crime. That will accomplish far more than helping the slim number of the more well-off minorities getting into the corporate suite or the great halls of Harvard.

This piece first appeared at UnHerd.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: Maxjuh via Wikimedia under CC 4.0 License.

The Greatest Generational Conflict of All

Ever since the phrase “the generation gap” was minted — by a headline writer at Look during the youth rebellion of the Sixties — trouble has been brewing. Today, there are two generational conflicts in play around the world: one within the depopulating wealthy countries, and another within the more fecund, but far poorer, countries of the developing world. Read more

Women Have Won the ‘War Between the Sexes,’ but at What Cost?

The war between the sexes has ended, and rather than a co-operative future that could benefit all, it has turned out to be more like a lopsided win for the female side. After millennia of power struggles based on such things as biology and social function, the role of women in advanced societies has expanded dramatically, which is generally a good thing but has some rarely cited downsides.

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The Future of Cities Series: Conclusion

Over five millennia, cities have demonstrated their essential resiliency. They now are transforming to a pattern based on digital commuting.

The Future of Cities: Next Generation Suburbs

Next generation suburbs can be designed to preserve the environment, and advantage that urban core cities could never achieve.

The Future of Cities: Utah and Salt Lake City Policy Innovations in Homelessness, Poverty, and Healt …

The size of government matters, but so does the nature of what government does — and what people do about homelessness, poverty, and health.

The Twilight of the Anglosphere

The pomp and ceremony of this weekend’s coronation of King Charles III could not hide the fact that Britain, once the most powerful nation on Earth, has become slightly dysfunctional and even a bit weird. In fact, this dysfunction is not just afflicting the United Kingdom itself, but also the broader Anglosphere, right from the antipodes up to the snowy wastes of Canada.

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What Really Divides America

For almost a decade, the West has been engaged in a deepening conflict. Sometimes it flares up as a political debate; sometimes as a culture war. But whatever form it takes, it is inevitably framed as a disagreement between classes, races or ideologies.

This is a mistake. Demography may be destiny, but it is geography that determines its political shape. The greatest division today is to do with place: in particular, three basic terroirs — urban, suburban and rural — which reflect a divergence in economic interest, family structure and basic values, particularly between big city economies and those on the periphery.

This fracture is widening at a time when the demographic balance between these regions is shifting. For much of the past two centuries, the overwhelming inclination was towards urbanisation, with dense cores serving as the prime engines of economic, cultural and social change. Today, however, that pattern is shifting, particularly since the pandemic, which saw two million citizens move out of big US cities. Even in urban-oriented Europe, 63% of cities experienced a population decline during the pandemic.

Does this mean “the era of urban supremacy is over”, as the New York Times put it? Quite possibly. But don’t expect the urban leadership to acknowledge it. Even as they desperately attempt (and largely fail) to lure workers back downtown, urban political interests continue to dominate the national conversation — even amid high levels of crime, street-level disorder and the resulting shuttering of businesses.

Largely ignored by the city-dominated media, the world’s urban core has been losing this battle for generations. This is not only evident in the United States, but also across Europe and Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, little more than 5% of growth from 1966 to 2021 was in the core cities. In Europe, barely 37% of people live in cities, with the rest in fast-growing suburbs, small towns and rural areas.

Of course, many cities have experienced some revival over the past decade, but that “boom” has largely benefited educated newcomers and their wealthy employers. Urban regions became both richer and poorer; according to Pew research, the greatest inequality in America now exists in “superstar cities”, such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and San Jose.

These shifts have, unsurprisingly, shaped urban politics. As middle-class families have left, the urban terroir has been gutted of the old urban bulwark of solid middle and working-class families; as Fred Siegel has observed, it is dominated by an “upstairs/downstairs” coalition of the affluent and dependent.

This demographic reality has driven a shift towards a more progressive politics. In 1984, for example, Ronald Reagan won 31% of the vote in San Francisco and 27.4% in Manhattan. In 2016, Donald Trump won only 10% of the vote in each. Between 1998 and 2018, urban counties — which sometimes includes suburbs — went from 55% to 62% Democratic. Today, there is not a single Republican Mayor of a city of more than one million people. Recent victories of progressives in Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago, New York and Minneapolis, despite widespread social disorder and economic decline, suggest this pattern may well be inexorable.

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo: David Clow Flickr under CC 2.0 License.