Technology has changed how we interact among ourselves and with our surrounding environment and we must engage in a philosophical reflection on how we currently understand the “new” world we are a part of. The future of society, as defined by the scientific and technological revolutions, needs a custom ethical and philosophical direction. The human species will change with genetic editing; artificial intelligence challenges the concept of “I” and “individual;” and robotics will bring new “companion robots,” which we need to define and adopt socially. Exponential technologies and macrodata will enable us to expand our cognitive capacities but is it possible to protect our freedom and human rights in such a scenario, using the current tools? This article describes 10 looks into the future of disciplines which demand a new enlightenment, i.e. a review of the basic concepts of our ethics and our values.
You can find out more about these topics in the latest OpenMind book, Towards a New Enlightenment? A Transcendent Decade.
1. The financial industry: driver of productivity and inclusive growth
Francisco González, the Chairman of BBVA until 2018, puts forward the need for a new enlightenment: a renewal of our philosophical pillars and the economic and legal architecture. The financial industry must move to the forefront of change so that the great growth potential of new technologies materializes.
2. The promises of the cosmos and the mysteries of big bang
Martin Rees, a cosmologist and space scientist, explains the greatest achievements of space exploration in the last decade with a special focus on the technological feat of confirming Einstein’s theory with gravitational waves. Even though we know there are exoplanets, will we ever find life? To keep moving forward, we need to understand what’s at the origin of everything: big bang.
3. Physics: essential for interdisciplinary development
José Manuel Sánchez Ron, a senior professor of History of Science and Ph.D. in Physics, analyzes some of the greatest achievements in physics in recent years, such as the Higgs boson or gravitational radiation. It is essential to understand the current and future role of physics in relation to other fields of science which promise to change the world, such as quantum cryptography.
4. Genetics to understand intermingling in the human species
María Martinón-Torres has a Ph.D. in Medicine and Surgery and is a forensics anthropologist. In the last 10 years, genetics has made it possible to analyze old DNA and, as a result, revealed the history of the planet’s first inhabitants. We are now a single human species but we finally know that descend from other species. How does this perspective change our understanding of the current human diversity?
5. Data: the new raw material of justice and change
Professor Sandy Pentland, a computational scientist, heads MIT’s Connection Science and Human Dynamics labs and defines data as “the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability and transparency.” With data analysis, we now have unprecedented tools to inform and transform society and to protect the environment. How should we harness this potential in the future?
6. Nanotechnology underlying major transformations
Sandip Tiwari is a professor of Engineering and researches the influence of nanotechnology in our daily lives. The “nano pieces” and microchips we are unable to see but which are undoubtedly changing our routines. For example, Tiwari analyzes the role of nanotechnology in genetic manipulation and artificial intelligence. The professor also warns of the need to research the learning processes of machines, precisely to confirm that the “ghost in the machine” is angelic.
7. The end of identity and autonomy
Joanna J. Bryson is a professor at the University of Bath and studies the machine-human interrelationships. The emergence of smartphones in 2007 generated macrodata which uses artificial intelligence and transformed our daily routines. Bryson underscores how mass access to knowledge in the age of communications threatens basic concepts such as individual identity and autonomy.
8. Intelligent robots “with common sense:” the challenge of tomorrow’s AI
Ramón López de Mántaras is a professor at the CSIC and the director of the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute. López de Mántaras believes it is indispensable to give machines “common-sense knowledge” in order to move toward the ambitious goal of building “truly intelligent” general AI. This is the time to make the necessary decisions to outline this path. What are today’s challenges for artificial intelligence?
9. The social value of science in the age of knowledge
José M. Mato is a research professor at the CSIC and a qualified biochemist. Mato stresses the extended life expectancy in the last three decades (in countless Western regions) as the most tangible proof of the social value of science. Throughout the 20th century, public healthcare policies triumphed over illness. But which are the next challenges of medicine in the age of knowledge? This social acknowledgment of the value of science must extend to thousands of rare diseases and to all regions where it still needs to go.
10. Companion robot: how we will be working together
Daniela Rus is a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and develops the science and engineering of autonomy, toward the long-term objective of enabling a future with machines pervasively integrated into the fabric of life, supporting people with cognitive and physical tasks. When robots take the final leap from our imagination to our homes and workplaces, they will become our companions; they will add new possibilities and countless variables to our patterns of behavior: they will change how and where we build, how we move or the materials we use to create things.