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Project Vision 21

Transforming lives, renewing minds, cocreating the future

15 years  of Archives


Motionless, cold water exists even if we have never seen it

The (fictional) story is told of a young man who, after living his entire life in a small village in the rainforest, for some reason decided to go out to explore the world and when he returned to his village two years later, he explained that he had visited a place in which there water was motionless and cold. They called it “ice”.
According to the story, his friends and family did not believe him and even accused him of lying, because, they said, none of them had ever seen cold, motionless water in their entire lives. And when the young man explained that the “ice” was in an area called “mountains” and at a time of year called “winter,” at that moment, they no longer wanted to listen to him.

This story has a direct connection with the famous Allegory of the Cave that Plato shares in his book Republic. One day, a prisoner manages to leave the cave and verify the existence of the outside world. Later, he decides to return to the cave and share his discovery with his former friends, but none of them believe what the former prisoner tells them.

Closer in time and history, it is said that Marco Polo, after returning to Italy after his famous trip to China, and after publishing a book recounting those adventures, was accused of fraud and lies because during the 13th century it was believed in Europe that a civilization as advanced as the one Marco Polo described in his book could not exist outside Europe.

These and many other similar examples of “rejected truths” (as we could be called) reflect a phenomenon so ancient that Greek mythology already incorporated it in the story of Cassandra, the princess of Troy who had the gift of prophecy, but who also had a curse: no one would ever believe what she said.

Based on these perspectives (mythology, philosophy, history), we could say that the two and a half millennia of Western culture are based on a continuous and constant rejection of the truth (however it is presented or understood) and that, therefore, narratives and stories are created to perpetuate lies, illusions and appearances.

In our society, we are all so “locked” inside our cave, our village or city, and our culture that we believe that the limits of our experience are the limits of reality and that, therefore, if someone says or does something different than what we know or experience, that person must be considered a liar or insane.

At the same time, all those who dare to climb cold mountains, to leave their confinement to seek other lights, or to travel to distant parts of the world (including the inner world), or, like Cassandra, to see the future, suffer from the same curse that Cassandra suffered: no one believes them. But their disbelief does not minimize the truth of the truth.

Those who do not see the future will never be able to escape their own destiny.


Artificial intelligence has already begun to impose its digital monoculturalism

These days, especially thanks to large language models, you can hardly read anything that hasn't been written and translated by artificial intelligence. Therefore, regardless of the topic or language, articles and news have the same structure and follow the same sequence. It is the dawn of digital monoculturalism.

The topic is not new, obviously. In 2016 Shelly Palmer (a well-known technology expert) already warned about the “inevitable path towards digital monoculturalism”, understood as the disappearance, due to AI, of the “rich tapestry of human expression”. In other words, AI, whether algorithms or language models, is redefining human cultural creations.

And it's not just a matter of stories, news, or translations. Think of the navigators in cars, which drivers obey so blindly that it doesn't matter whether they are taking them on closed roads or impassable mud roads. And since everyone obeys the navigator to follow the fastest route, the congestion that they wanted to avoid is created.

Or think about social media algorithms, which mean that we can only see and share what the algorithm decides, not what we or others want to share. Furthermore, preference is given to messages and posts of dubious quality and even more dubious authenticity and benefits. Think about all those “challenges” that many people blindly follow.

But where does the overwhelming, overwhelming digital monoculturalism really come from? Not from technology, but from our decision to delegate all kinds of decisions to technology, from the creation of an image that we would never have created otherwise, to a university entrance exam and even a medical or psychological diagnosis. The list is endless.

The situation is complicated because, as we know, AI and its derivatives reflect the same prejudices and discriminatory tendencies as their creators. That means that not only will we be trapped within a bubble of monoculturalism, but that monoculturalism will also be as discriminatory and prejudiced as current society, or perhaps more so.

At the same time, there is another possible dimension of this digital monoculturalism, what could be called the “fragmented” version, in which each of us is trapped, fragmented, within our own digital culture and, as a consequence, is isolated from all the others, no matter how many “friends” or “followers” ​​we have on social networks.

Ultimately, through negligence, laziness, intellectual laziness, or inability, or whatever, we are slowly but inexorably creating our own global limiting narrative, which, like all limiting narratives, is inapparent to the storyteller and therefore remains unchallenged, and without its harmful consequences being accepted.

It is true that human beings are not good at making decisions, whether individually or collectively. Wars, pollution, social conflicts, and all other types of circumstances demonstrate this.

But the solution to our ugly decision-making skills should not be to delegate decision-making about humanity and about Earth to artificial intelligence. Rather we should all mature individually and collectively to take responsibility for our own lives without losing what makes us truly human, from our mistakes to our ability to learn from those mistakes.

What generates us more anxiety, intelligent robots or the destruction of the planet?

Since 2019, people have begun to talk about eco-anxiety, a concept that was first applied to that negative feeling generated by the destruction and contamination of the planet and by climate change (whatever its cause) and that was later expanded to include all kinds of of anxiety related to the future, including the arrival of intelligent robots.

This brief and superficial column is not the appropriate place to analyze, much less solve, challenges and problems of global scope. And we must emphasize that we do not seek to diagnose any type of mental or emotional situation, be it on a personal or social level.

However, it becomes clear that something is going on. We are facing deep, irreversible, unconsulted and transforming changes. And many of us don't really know what is happening or what will happen to us, to our families and our community, and ultimately to humanity and the planet.

As Dr. Otto Scharmer (Presencing Institute) recently expressed, we don't like what we see and we want to be part of another story, another narrative, another reality, but we don't know how. And that gap (seemingly impossible to bridge) between what is and what we would like it to be is, and always has been, one of the main causes of anxiety.

But it is no longer about me, or you, or a friend or family member feeling anxiety about a specific situation. Perhaps because of starting a new job, or because a new baby has arrived in the family. Or for facing a highly negative financial or health situation. Or for having won the lottery. Now we are all anxious, often sharing different levels of anxiety in silence.

For example, a study carried out in 10 countries by experts from the University of Bath, United Kingdom (published in The Lancet in December 2021) reveals that 75% of the young people surveyed feel “terrified” of the future and 50% described their feeling like “sadness, anxiety, anger, helplessness and guilt.”

For its part, the American Psychological Association (APA) defines eco-anxiety as “the chronic fear of suffering an environmental cataclysm and the associated concern for the future of oneself and future generations”. But why is it anxiety? Because, according to APA, what we are facing is "a diffuse threat" which generates “worry, depression and apathy.”

But it's not just about the environment. A recent report released by the technology consultancy Wipro reveals that, due to the advent of generative artificial intelligence, "anxiety about the displacement (of humans) of jobs in the global economy has increased."And that anxiety, "has good foundations." After all, it will be hard to have a super-intelligent humanoid as a co-worker, even if that humanoid presents himself as our ally.

How do we overcome that situation? It is impossible to offer an adequate answer here. Therefore, we will only mention the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who said that, in the face of anguish and anxiety, we should make authentic decisions, instead of seeking refuge in pre-established belief systems.


Neither obsession with the present nor rejecting the present are viable options

In the same way that certain people suffer from inflammation of the appendix, that is, appendicitis, many people suffer (or enjoy, as the case may be) from a metaphorical inflammation of the present, which should be called presentitis. In either case, it is a situation that, sooner or later, will literally have to be remedied.

For many, the present (frequently confused with the "now") is the only thing that exists and, therefore, they proclaim that one must live in the present and enjoy the present. Already in ancient times it was said "Let's live and eat that tomorrow we will die". This attitude, raised to the level of presentitis, causes such confinement within the present that the past and the future are forgotten.

In fact, on several occasions when I had the privilege of speaking before community groups about the new future (or emerging future) the main objection to that concept was that "the only thing that exists is the present", understanding living in the present as make the most of “the power of now”.

However, it must be said that presentitis reduces the "power of now" to enclose itself within the present and, consequently, to ignore past and future responsibilities that every person must assume and face at some point in their life. Perpetuating the present prevents opening the mind and heart to the possibilities and opportunities that the future offers.

But just as there are those so obsessed with the present that they make the present their only point of reference, there are also those who, for whatever reason, hate the present and take refuge in the past (the majority) or delude themselves with an illusory future. (Although, as my grandmother used to say, one can also live by illusions.)

According to the Argentine philosopher Tomás Abraham, the “haters of the present”, as he describes them, have always existed. They are those for whom "every time in the past was always better", those who resist all change. Also, they do not want to change. Abraham associates these haters of the present with "litanies of moralism."

But neither obsessively clinging to the present, nor totally rejecting it, allows us to live a full life. According to Abraham, hating the present (rejecting it) prevents opening the mind to "the wonders that exist and are to be found." And the same could be said of clinging to the present, although in another sense: if the present is seen as “the” great wonder, then all change is rejected.

However, everything changes. Things change. The world changes. Society changes. The universe and Earth are no longer what they were before. The accelerated political, social, and technological changes of the last century far exceed the changes in all previous human history.

For this reason, neither closing oneself within a fictitious present nor rejecting the present in the name of melancholy for the past or the illusion of the future are acceptable alternatives. So, what to do? Each one must decide for their own account.


Can juries and judges really decide what is real and what is not?

In 1818, in the court of Manhattan (New York), the state inspector James Maurice took the merchant Samuel Judd to trial for the crime of insisting that whales were mammals, and not, as everyone believed at the time, fish.

Although the naturalist Lineo had already said in 1758 that whales were mammals, that position was rejected by most people based on a misreading of the story of Jonah in the Hebrew scriptures, mistaking the "great fish" mentioned in that text with a "whale," which is never mentioned (except, sadly, in popular songs for kids.)

After only 15 minutes of deliberation, the jury went in favor of Maurice, declaring that the whales were, without a doubt, fish because they did not have legs and because they lived in the sea. Although the verdict was overturned only a month later, its consequences lasted for decades before the whales disappeared and were accepted as mammals.

Then, from July 11 to 21, 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee, teacher John Scopes was put on trial for having taught the theory of evolution in one of his classes, in violation of a law passed in that state that prohibited teaching that theory. The presiding judge, John Raulston, rejected any testimony from scientists and found Scope guilty.

Scope will have to pay a fine of $100 ($1,700 in 2023), which would later be cancelled. But the law prohibiting teaching (indeed, mentioning) the theory of evolution in that state remained in effect until 1967.

Why do we mention those examples? Because on August 18, Judge Beryl Howell, of the Federal Court of the District of Columbia, ruled against Stephen Thaler, who argued that the creations made by the artificial intelligence that he uses should be protected by copyright in the name of that artificial intelligence, and not his, since he (Thaler) had not participated in that creative process.

In his ruling, the judge noted that United States copyright law, which dates back to 1790, emphasizes that "the human element" is the central element in the adjudication of intellectual property or copyright and that those rights are designed to “encourage human creativity”.

However, the first generation of generative artificial intelligence is already here and, although still clearly in its infancy, such artificial intelligence can already autonomously produce “highly sophisticated and human-like creations” without input or decision “of human creativity”, as the expert Shelly Palmer rightly says.

In 1818 the judge in the whale case indicated that science, not the Bible or the law, was on trial. In 1925, the attitude of the judge was quite similar. And although in the current case of artificial intelligence these indications no longer appear explicitly, the decision is based on a law written in 1790 with the ideas and beliefs of that time.

Maybe it's time to redefine what it means to be human. Perhaps it is time to carefully watch again The Measure of a Man (Start Trek: The Next Generation, season 2, episode 9) before deciding about the rights of artificial intelligence.

Sharing the same space does not imply sharing the same time

Recently, Spanish philosopher Daniel Innerarity proposed (and he is right) that the new social challenge consists of solving the dilemma interacting with those people who "live in the same space, but with different time horizons." Although we rarely think about it, let alone admit it, it is true that sharing a space does not mean sharing the same time.
The philosophical and practical consequences of this situation (I insist, whether we are aware of it or not) are immense. In the first place, we can no longer accept it as obvious or inevitable that the person who is in front of us (in the same physical space) shares the same time, that is, the same time horizon.

Second, that lack of simultaneity in temporal experience opens the possibility not only of multiple futures and not just one, but also of multiple futures emerging and occurring simultaneously (although simultaneity seems to be an almost arbitrary measure that depends on the observer and of the observer's consciousness).
Saying that each of us lives, so to speak, within their own time bubble sounds ridiculous and absurd, like a waste of time, like a “philosophical” exercise in the derogatory sense of the word. But it's not like that.

Consider, for example, that young children have a very different time horizon from their parents. In fact, many children have a hard time understanding that their parents were once children, too. And the time horizon of a historian, an archaeologist, a paleontologist, or an astronomer is much longer than that of a person without those specializations.

Only a little more than two centuries ago, the German poet and thinker Johann von Goethe said that, in order not to wander through life, it was necessary to know about 3,000 years of history, because 200 years ago it was considered that that was the time horizon of human civilization. Since then, that horizon has expanded exponentially.

These examples show that we do not all share the same temporal experience, a disparity that increases (I think) in the case of the future, a time horizon many people simply prefer not to even think about.

For this reason, Innerarity is right to suggest that, from now on, it will be increasingly difficult to live with those with whom we share the same space, but not the same time. And in the "new" time, our understanding of time and the universe is changing rapidly.

For example, recent experiments at the Fermilab particle accelerator (Illinois) shows that, in addition to the four fundamental forces of the universe (gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force) there would be a fifth fundamental force, still unknown. (Consciousness? Just asking.) And those forces vary in different places in the universe.

In this context, the invitation to prepare ourselves to interact with people who literally live in a different time than ours (different, neither better nor worse) does not seem far-fetched. In fact, it might be the most important task we should be focusing on.

The global meta-metamorphosis is almost here while we look the other way

Now that the great tide of that European experiment called Modernity has begun to recede, ideas, desires, and hopes that have been drowned for the last 500 years can be seen all over the world. But as the tide of Modernity continues to recede, there is a growing possibility of a tsunami of global and irreversible changes.

In fact, the tsunami of changes has also already begun and, contrary to what it might seem, it is not limited to serious environmental problems or to the growing interference of artificial intelligence in our lives, nor even to the possibility of imminent extraterrestrial contacts. The current changes are a total transformation, a metamorphosis.

However, the magnitude and obviousness of those changes do not mean that we can appreciate the new reality that we are facing. Let's look at it this way: when the caterpillar begins its metamorphosis process, the caterpillar considers that it is sick and activates its defenses to stop that “disease”. Only when the caterpillar stops "defending itself", does the metamorphosis begin.

Many of us, perhaps most, do not even think about the new future that is now emerging. And many others (especially politicians) see this global transformation in which we are all now participating (whether we know it or not) as something to be "defended" against, almost like a "disease" to be eradicated.

That is why, unfortunately, foolish efforts by demagogues to return to a past that never existed as they remember it are frequently repeated. And those opportunists of fear preach their distorted gospel that brings comfort to those who, believing themselves destined to only be caterpillars, never begin their own metamorphosis.

It has been said, and rightly so, that life is what happens to us while we are busy doing other things. In the same way, it could be said that change, transformation, is what happens to us while we are looking the other way (perhaps walking through social networks or sending memes). But, in humans, metamorphosis happens even if we are not aware of it.

In fact, what we are seeing and experiencing is a new and globalized form of the human unconscious, in which, far from being a collective unconscious that expresses heroic archetypes, it has become a litany of superficialities where everyone appears as victims of something or someone and no one appears desires to take responsibility for their own life.

In a very few years, this irresponsible inaction and superficiality in the face of the challenges and opportunities of the emerging future will be of little or no use because, being inefficient and inoperative, they only seek to repeat the past or perpetuate the present but cannot co-create a new future.

Since the collapse of civilization in the Bronze Age 3,200 years ago, humanity has not experienced a transformation as profound as the one we are now experiencing, where what was is no longer (even though it is still here) and what is coming has arrived (although we do not yet  perceive it).


What needs to happen for us to accept that reality has changed and act appropriately?

One of the basic characteristics of the human being is, or rather, was the ability to adapt to new environments and new circumstances. But, it seems, that capacity is disappearing and there are already legions of those who, even knowingly, prefer to perpetuate the past or repeat the present before venturing to accept a new reality.

Recently, for example, I read in the news a story that exemplifies what we have just expressed. According to the news, a farmer in China had to leave the countryside where he had lived all his life and move to live in a city, specifically, on the fifth floor of an apartment building.

The farmer then did what every farmer would do: he took his animals with him and placed them in a makeshift pen on the balcony of his apartment. The discontent of his neighbors, due to the noise and the bad smell, reached such a level that security guards had to be hired to stop the farmer from bringing more animals into the building.

Although that story may seem farfetched and even comical, the farmer's actions adequately represent (if exaggeratedly) similar actions that each of us performs when our lives change, or when the society around us changes, or when we enter a new historical epoch (as it’s happening now).

In the same way that a healthy baby, precisely because he is healthy, cannot and should not remain in the crib all his life, and in the same way that a boy or girl grows up naturally discarding the clothes and toys they previously “loved” so much, changes in life invite us to simultaneously grow (mature) and discard what has become obsolete.

But we don't.

Unfortunately, many people believe that their past experiences represent all possible reality, but obviously (or should be obvious), this is not the case. We all experience changes in life due to circumstances, but at the same time, each of us has an impact on those circumstances. That is, we create the changes that change us.

However, we live in such a superficial culture that we have even lost the awareness that we create our reality. Nothing new: Heraclitus (500 bce) already complained about this.

We are so separated (alienated) from ourselves, from others (“hell”, as Sartre would say) and from the universe or divinity that we do not recognize ourselves in what we do and, therefore, we cling to what we already know as if that was all possible and acceptable reality. So, even if everything changes, even if nothing is as before, we insist on living as before.

Like the farmer in China, we carry all our past to a new place and a new time, seeking not to lose what has already been lost and to re-create what’s impossible to re-create. And when that doesn't happen, we activate our “victim’s role”, of not being understood or accepted.

What must happen, then, for us to finally accept a new reality? Maybe open our mind and heart?


What will happen when quantum supercomputers are the brains of intelligent robots?

According to a story published earlier this month, a new quantum supercomputer from Google can solve in seconds problems that it would take other quantum supercomputers 47 years to solve. In other words, the processing time was reduced from almost half a century to a few seconds.

If that same ratio were to hold when the next quantum supercomputer kicks in (and that will certainly happen sooner than you think), then the next generation of quantum supercomputers will be able to solve in millionths of a second what now takes a few seconds to solve.

But what are these supercomputers with that unimaginable processing capacity for? The first answer is that they will be used for autonomous vehicle navigation, but that seems too small a task for such supercomputers.

Personally, I think the new quantum supercomputers will be used, as seen in Star Trek, to help navigate spaceships. And why not? Before denying that possibility, let's remember that at some point not so long ago people believed that nothing heavier than air could fly. In today's world, saying "it's never going to happen" is meaningless.

At the same time, there are two other possibilities for new quantum supercomputers, and they have nothing to do with my speculations or my intention to continue watching Star Trek as a documentary.

Specifically, it has been mentioned that China would be studying the use of quantum supercomputers for the administration of that huge country. In that context, the time may come (and it may not be long) when we will no longer elect a president, but a supercomputer will govern us.

And, according to another report, quantum supercomputers could be used for a task beyond (it is usually said) the scope of current science and technology: communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence. Perhaps that is the main and real purpose of developing this new technology.

There is still another possibility, that of quantum computers becoming the brains of intelligent humanoid robots. (Do you remember Data?) The idea is not far-fetched. Just a couple of weeks ago, a “summit” between intelligent robots and human experts was held in Geneva to discuss “future possibilities for cooperation”.

Will robots with a quantum brain want to cooperate with us? They probably won't even want to listen to us. Let's think about this example: two weeks ago, the specialized magazine Plos One published an article about “cheap” robots built with LEGO pieces that can “purify” DNA.

If LEGO robots can do that, what can't super-intelligent robots do? Maybe it's better not to think about it, but don't say that to the Spanish archaeologist Eudald Carbonell because he already thought about it. 

Last February, Carbonell indicated that by the end of this century there will be four human species: traditional (organic) humans, hybrid humans (cyborgs), artificial humans, and digital humans. And all those species will live and work together on this planet. 

What will happen then when quantum supercomputers become the brains of intelligent robots? Whatever they want to happen will happen.


To what extent have we become undesirable to the planet that even orcas attack us?

The similar increasing number of attacks on ships by killer whales in the Strait of Gibraltar area has been explained (at least preliminarily) as the reaction of adult killer whales having negative encounters with ships. Since the attacks are concentrated on the helm of the ships (and not on humans), the message is clear: "Take your technology elsewhere."

Furthermore, those interactions between killer whales and ships seem to have a specific purpose for killer whales: training. In all cases, an adult orca (usually the matriarch of the group) "attacks" the boat along with several young orcas who are "taught" how to immobilize the rudder. It is, then, an intergenerational educational act for the survival of orcas.

But why do orcas have to defend themselves from boats? Because the orcas are there (in the area of the Strait of Gibraltar) to eat (mainly tuna) and the boats prevent them from doing so. Then, once the ship is immobilized, the killer whales can corner again. And that is exactly what they do.

The killer whales (close relatives of the dolphins and as intelligent as they are) reveal with their actions to what extent the human presence disrupts and deforms nature. But while many other animals simply watch their habitat disappear without a chance to complain, intelligent killer whales have found a (partial) way to fight back.

What does this have to do with us humans? Absolutely everything. Let's be honest: we've become so accustomed to accepting technology uncritically that it bothers us that even animals reject it. We believe so much (wrongly) in the indisputable benefits of technology that we assume that it is something as natural as nature itself.

And so, in this confrontation between technology and nature (animals included) we always and immediately lean in favor of technology, distorting an increasingly technological planet more and more every day. And that means an increasingly dehumanized humanity.

What does a dehumanized humanity mean? It is a humanity that in a few decades went from being helped by technology to being oriented by technology to being controlled by technology. Everything (or practically everything) we watch, what we buy, what we read and what we entertain ourselves with is controlled by some algorithm. And more and more important decisions are being delegated to technology, from dating to getting into college.

Perhaps it is time to listen more to orcas and other animals, that is, to pay attention to the consequences of our actions on the lives and deaths of those animals. And at the same time, we should listen to ourselves and take responsibility for the lives and deaths of other human beings. After all, our very survival is at stake.

Unfortunately, we are so alienated from ourselves, from nature, from others and from divinity that there is little hope that we will ever become an adult and responsible humanity.


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