A techno-pessimist view of machines across the ages
I had the idea for this article in mind for some time and decided to write it together with ChatGPT. In the process I found out we share a love of Jules Verne and a concern for responsible development when it comes to AI.
Imagine a world where technology has replaced creativity, and people have lost touch with their humanity. Sound familiar? It’s the premise of “Paris in the 20th Century”, a dark and prescient novel by Jules Verne that was only published posthumously. And it’s also the world of “Idiocracy”, a satirical film by Mike Judge that portrays a future where anti-intellectualism and technological over-reliance have created a society of dim-witted consumers.
At first glance, these two works might seem worlds apart. After all, “Paris in the 20th Century” was written in 1863, and “Idiocracy” was released in 2006. But both Verne and Judge share a techno-pessimistic view of the future, one that warns of the dangers of unchecked technological advancement. And as we stand on the cusp of the age of artificial intelligence, their warnings are more relevant than ever.
In this article, we’ll explore the common thread between “Paris in the 20th Century” and “Idiocracy,” and how their message relates to the development of artificial intelligence. We’ll discuss the potential risks and benefits of AI, and how we can learn from the cautionary themes of these two works to ensure that we approach AI development with care and consideration for its broader impact on society.
In “Paris in the 20th Century,” Jules Verne paints a bleak picture of the future. The novel, which was written in 1863 but only published in 1994, depicts a society where technology has advanced to such an extent that it has stifled human creativity and left people disconnected from each other. Verne’s publisher suggested that he wait 20 years before publishing it due to the book’s pessimism. Verne locked it in a safe and his great-grandson discovered it in 1989. The story follows Michel, a young man who is an aspiring poet and student of dead languages, but finds himself struggling to find meaningful work in a world that values only practical skills and technical know-how.
As Michel falls in love with the granddaughter of a former teacher, he becomes increasingly disillusioned with the world around him. He longs for a world where people can express their creativity and pursue their passions, but finds that his society has no place for such things. The tragic, surrealistic suffering of the artist culminates in him collapsing famined and frozen by an old cemetery.
The world of “Paris in the 20th Century” is dominated by machines, factories, and commerce. People have lost touch with nature and art, and creativity is seen as useless and unproductive. The novel describes a world where people live in a state of constant anxiety, working long hours in factories and office buildings, and relying on machines for every aspect of their lives. Verne managed to predict quite a few things coreclty, such as mass higher education or the growth of suburbs, electronic music and a lewd entertainment industry. His vision of the future can be interpreted as a warning against the dangers of technological advancement without regard for its impact on human society. It’s a cautionary tale about the need to balance progress with the preservation of what makes us human.
In the 2006 film “Idiocracy,” director Mike Judge presents a dystopian vision of the future, in which humanity has devolved into a society of idiots. The plot centers on Joe Bauers, an average guy who is cryogenically frozen and wakes up 500 years in the future, only to find that society has become so dumbed down that he is now the smartest person in the world.
The film is a satirical take on the consequences of anti-intellectualism and the over-reliance on technology. In this future world, people have become so lazy and dependent on machines that they have lost the ability to think for themselves. The government is run by corporations, and the only things that people care about are junk food, mindless entertainment, and sex.
Mike Judge’s views on technology and society are evident throughout the film. He has stated in interviews that he believes that technology can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it can make our lives easier and more convenient. On the other hand, it can also make us lazy, complacent, and disconnected from the world around us.
The themes of “Idiocracy” are similar to those in “Paris in the 20th Century.” Both works warn against the dangers of technological progress without regard for its impact on human society. While Verne’s novel focuses on the loss of human creativity, Judge’s film explores the consequences of a society that has lost its ability to think critically and has become completely dependent on machines.
However, there are some key differences between the two works. “Paris in the 20th Century” presents a more nuanced view of technology, acknowledging its potential benefits but warning against the dangers of becoming too reliant on it. “Idiocracy,” on the other hand, takes a more extreme approach, portraying technology as a destructive force that has caused the downfall of humanity.
Despite these differences, both works offer important lessons for the development of artificial intelligence. As we continue to create machines that can think, learn, and make decisions, we must be mindful of their impact on human intelligence, critical thinking, and decision-making. We must ensure that we do not become so dependent on technology that we lose our ability to think for ourselves and make decisions based on reason and empathy. No one wants a future where AI is used to exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities. We have seen that happen already, such as when AI-powered tools were used to make hiring decisions and only perpetuated biases that exist in the current system, leading to discrimination against certain groups of people.
The development of AI raises important ethical questions, such as who will be responsible for the decisions made by autonomous machines, and how we can ensure that these decisions are made in the best interests of society as a whole. As we saw in “Idiocracy,” the government in that dystopian future was run by corporations, leading to a situation where decisions were made based on profit rather than the common good.
To avoid a future like that depicted in “Idiocracy,” we must be vigilant in how we develop and use AI. We must ensure that we approach AI development with care and consideration for its broader impact on society. We must also prioritize ethical considerations in the development of AI, and work to ensure that the benefits of AI are shared fairly and equitably.
In conclusion, the cautionary themes of “Paris in the 20th Century” and “Idiocracy” are more relevant than ever in the age of artificial intelligence. Both works warn against the dangers of unchecked technological advancement and highlight the need to balance progress with the preservation of what makes us human. As we continue to develop and integrate AI into our lives, we must be mindful of its potential risks and benefits, and work to ensure that it is developed and used in ways that benefit society as a whole.
Sous-chef – AI has a more prominent role in the generation of the text content, but still under close human guidance.