Culture & AI

How might AI machines affect human culture? How might we design new coherence strategies for the age of machines?

Culture & AI

Take a moment to imagine this: you stand in the middle of Grand Central Station as throngs of people hurry past. You wonder, who are these people? Where have they been? Where are they going? What are their goals, beliefs, worries, and hopes? What idiosyncrasies do they have? What does their life look like? To them?

Everyone has a rich inner life, one as complex as your own. This sudden realization has a name—sonder. It’s a meta-empathy, a deep sense of connectivity and apartness coexisting in a single emotion. Sonder makes us loyal to humanity.

As our brains evolved, specialized areas developed and were reinforced through practicing innate talents. With a community of experts, we combine our computational capacity, overcoming limitations on human cognition. Feeling "sonder" energizes us as we realize others have the same capacity to feel. Our need to belong in a group exists in tension with our individualistic desires. Survival depends on being part of the group. The rituals of art, ceremony, and story evolved to serve our community of shared thinking. This is what we experience as culture.

Machines have different skills than humans. Machines can complement us by thinking in high-dimensional spaces and at speeds we cannot. They are powerful tools but their power is not evenly distributed. What does it mean that machines are now part of our community? What becomes of the fabric of human culture when machines create new fault lines?

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