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Freeman Cebu Business

Embracing our fears

BUSINESS AFTER BUSINESS - Romelinda Garces - The Freeman

In my last article, “Backed to the Future” I found myself wriggling against the wall of anxiety. The way we live our lives now ushers in the possibility that one day, more personal interactions would be unheard of. Artificial intelligence has leaped exponentially with the advent of COVID or perhaps it was already there but we refused to acknowledge that it is an integral part of our existence.

My students used to kid me about my refusal to be active in any social platform and my friends would be terribly mad at my lack of techno savvy as I gloss over all the sophisticated gadgets that are at my disposal, and to which I just raise my brows to. Now I learned to give in and adapt. It actually makes life easier with information at our fingertips though I still choose what I embark on. Trying to protect my sanity by skipping the growing numbers of COVID cases.

I seek for good news, and what do I find?  Leafing through some of my old reads, I noted one of the articles that was published in 2014. The Five Biggest Threats To Human Existence!  This was written by Anders Sandberg of the University of Oxford in pre-covid days.  2014!  We were enjoying parks then and dinners and parties.  No masks.  No alcohol washes.  Life was well, simple…

Anders Sandberg, in that article mentioned what ‘til now remains a threat. Topping the list then was nuclear war. The threat of a nuclear holocaust is like a dark cloud hovering over our heads. We tend to think, what if pride overtakes the desire to keep peace? What if the balance of power tips greatly to an end where the dip tilts the world to devastation? There were various close calls that needed the council of the United Nations to hold restraint over the affected parties so world peace can be upheld. But the peril remains, as world leaders slowly change.

Then Sandberg mentioned bioengineered pandemics as a second danger. We have seen these a lot in the movies and many studies indicate this is one great weapon that can create a rippling effect on the world population. We do not even know if the thing we are suffering now is a result of such. There is no proof. Just suspicions. But if this is a taste of chemical warfare, then we can expect annihilation should the threat be real. 

A third thing we fear, in the article of Sandberg is superintelligence. Well, we know that artificial intelligence is the thing these days and without keeping up with technology, business apparently cannot compete. That is why there are businesses that converted to Smart Manufacturing. Although proponents claim that no machine can replace man, and smart manufacturing does not in any way intend to do that, the more conservative remain sceptic.  Well, it could also mean transformation costs a lot of initial capital.

In my end, even though I live in the cave of low technology, I would like to believe that if robotics can facilitate the life of man, so much so that he can be allowed to enjoy more, have more time to be more sensitive to the essentials in life, like family and friends, then let’s use it. 

It is only when intelligent elite who are digital natives forget act like the machines they manage, being too distant, and devoid of feeling, that I propose caution. I would like to see our youth outside, in the sun, enjoying the things we used to do, instead of locking themselves in their rooms and getting stuck in the intellectual challenges on their screens. When the monitor replaces the warmth of real presence, and conversations are limited to texts and calls.

A fourth threat is nanotechnology. Based on the article of Sandberg, nanotechnology is “the control over matter with atomic or molecular precision. That is in itself not dangerous – instead it would be very good news for most applications.” The article goes on to say that it only becomes a menace when  its use is abused and is applied to weaponry or the like. I want to think that those who have the “it” to develop applications on this type of technology will have better intentions and look into more progress rather than power and greed.

And the final threat is the unknown. I am reminded of the Johari Window. All of us are surprised at how we react to sudden discoveries. Changes that confront us. It is normal to be uncomfortable with what we do not know and are not sure of. But it is also good to be inquisitive, exploratory, and adventurous. The unknown is a whole new journey. 

There is nothing really new in the threats we face.  Risks continue to confront us day by day. I agree with Mr. Sandberg that “if we want to be around in a million years, we need to correct that.” Humanity will be extinct, if we tether on fear.  These days we die of stress, depression, anxiety. All ruled by the way we think. Climate change will continue. Its effect greatly affecting how we will live.

All these shifts redound to how we react. Should we face the future with uncertainty and fear?  Or should we re-invent it by investing on going back to the basics of building character, sound judgment, cultivating objectives that deflect violence and hearts that are attune to the purpose of God. 

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