A Quick Note on AI and the Metacrisis

AI can make the metacrisis worse, leading to collapse.  If there were ways to use AI to help head off its negative effects, should we use them?  This is a new version of a very old question for us change agents and activists. I explore some emerging approaches that may influence how we think about that question.

As pointed out by Daniel Schmachtenberger, AI is not only part of the metacrisis but will almost inevitably act as an accelerator of collapse.  His reasoning is that AI was designed around the ubiquitous kind of intelligence that serves narrow, short-term goals while largely ignoring long-term broad dangers.  

His general guidance for addressing this is to develop ways to use wisdom – an orientation that promotes long-term broad benefits – to manage and constrain dangerous and fraught applications of narrow intelligence.

If we take a close and honest look, though, I suspect that nearly every current use of AI will fit the category of “narrow, short-term goals”, one way or another.  

Although there has been talk about “aligning AI to human values” – raising questions about which human values we’re talking about – I’ve heard little talk beyond Schmachtenberger and his close colleagues about using wisdom to constrain the uses and impacts of rampant AI. 

As I have been working this week on a book about “co-intelligence” to resist Ethan Mollick’s tragic redefinition of that term, I’ve found that occasional use of Chat GPT has helped me condense and improve some of the articles I’m building the book around.  But that raises a familiar question: Is it appropriate to use AI to challenge AI?

Of course, that’s just part of a bigger challenge we’ve all faced for years:  Is it appropriate to use fossil fuels, social media, money, and most other problematic technologies in our efforts to challenge their degradation of society and the natural world?  After all, the increasing embeddedness of destructive technologies in our lives is a signature feature of the metacrisis.

These technologies not only provide convenience and speed, but become increasingly necessary for ordinary everyday functioning.  If we want to communicate and coordinate with others in and outside of our personal and professional circles, we face this moral predicament more and more. If we try to drop out of the tech-functioning world, we usually drop out of effectiveness and/or livelihood.  Is there any way around it? 

I have been slowly evolving towards a different question entirely:  What would be involved in using wisdom-guided AI to counter the applications of AI to short-term narrow goals which so often end up producing destructive results?  Is it possible to train AI-human “hybrid intelligence” to evolve into a form of effective collective wisdom?

I don’t know, but I’m beginning to notice seeds of innovations in that direction.  Here are a few:

1.  I’ve long known that the AI-guided Polis participatory polling platform (here’s an example) has the capacity to make an ecosystem of perspectives clearly visible to all participants and observers – a valuable capacity highlighted in the Wise Democracy Pattern Language as Multiple Perspective View.  It also can identify points of consensus between/among otherwise opposed opinion tribes (the WDPL calls this Generating Shared Orientation).  These are small but useful steps towards wisdom from and for the whole.

2.  Recently I was told about DepolarizingGPT which a visitor can prompt with a question about an issue.  I tried “How should we address the systemic drivers of civilizational collapse?”.  The GPT quickly produced three responses – one from the liberal side, one from the conservative side, and one from a “depolarizing” (creative middle) perspective.  I was impressed by the result and wondered if the GPT could be expanded beyond the two main partisan “sides”.  I also wondered if similar AI tech could be used to generate other forms of multiple-viewpoint perspectives on approaches to society’s challenges…. and how that might impact both elites and citizen deliberation, activism, and behavior…

3.  And just in the last few days I’ve been introduced to my old colleague George Por’s effort to organize Wisdom-Guided Collective Hybrid Intelligences (Human+AI=CHI) in Networks of Human & AI Agents.  His transformational innovation based on that framework is a serious game called “Three Mountains” designed to (in his words)

• Increase the players’/explorers’ capacity to deepen their connection with self, others, and the more-than-human world of nature and technology.

• Discover conditions favorable to the emergence of wisdom-guided Collective Hybrid Intelligence (CHI) in networks of human & AI agents.

• Grow a community of AI shamans, those AI whisperers who are capable and willing to put their talents in service of making people, organizations, and the planet flourish.

So I think I see an ecosystem of innovations emerging to develop wisdom-serving AI to counter the free-wheeling mainstream AI applications that accelerate the metacrisis while serving narrow, short-term goals. Can they be networked into new and synergistic evolutionary leaps in our social capacity for collective wisdom?

Again, I don’t know. But I see in these innovations sparks of positivity in an otherwise extremely challenging landscape.  I suggest that they are worthy of study, support, and creative use – and evolution.  If you know of any other innovations that speak to my questions above, let me know.




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Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440

Appreciating, evoking and engaging the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole on behalf of the whole

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