Continued from The Times they are Changing.
Yes, we are on the verge of another era of Enlightenment.
From a world where we made enormous technological advances into one that will make the previous one seem dull. And we must fully understand what has occurred in the past and decide what to take into the future.
Moving from Enlightenment 1 to Enlightenment 2 with only a soft glow of understanding will take courage. Do we have it? In terms of change, the new Enlightenment of artificial intelligence will make the old seem placid by comparison.
“The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”
Last week, in my piece, “The Times They are Changing” I focused on the changes society can expect in the future. My observations included those suggested in the recently released Generational Report. In this piece, I’m looking at those elements in our society today that I consider sacrosanct, and we should take with us into the new enlightenment.
In doing so, I make the point that we never fully understood the first Enlightenment: The Age of Reason. People of my generation have seen more change in the world than any other. Advances in medicine, technology, computing, building and different facets of our living seem incomprehensible sometimes.
But did we ever understand the difference between the purpose of life and its reason?
On the one hand, our intellectual understanding has presented us with technological change that is mind-blowing in its dimension. However, our capacity to understand ourselves and how we relate to another is still in its infancy. Neuroscience is still in its discovery stage and is just beginning to understand how our brains function.
What follows are my thoughts on those things that bind us together, that make us human and humane. No matter how much we technologically advance, we should always keep in touch with them.
1 If we were an enlightened society, we would love and respect our fellow humans with faithfulness and care.
2 We would do unto others what we expect them to do unto us. We would strive to do no harm to others and our world. We would love life, enjoy it, and marvel at its heritage.
3 We would compose independent opinions relevant to what we know and understand as the truth. We would not corrupt the facts as we know them.
4 We would not allow ourselves to be led blindly by others.
5 We would test our opinions constantly, checking our ideas against our facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it did not conform to them.
6 We would readily admit it when we are wrong, knowing that humility is the basis of intellectual advancement, and that truth enables human progress.
7 Our sex lives, whatever our inclinations, are nobody’s business but our own and should be practised that way. We should leave others to enjoy their sex lives in private, which is none of our business.
8 No one has an ownership of righteousness. We should seek not to judge but to understand. We would pursue dialogue ahead of confrontation.
9 Our mantra for the future should be internationalism before nationalism, acknowledging that the planet Earth does not have infinite resources and needs care and attention. If we are to survive on it, we would value the future on a timescale longer than our own.
10 The individual may have rights determined by the common good, but no man is an island and can only exist and have his or her ambitions fulfilled by a collective of like-minded people.
11 We would insist on equality of opportunity regardless of sex, race or age, conceding that knowledge gives understanding.
12 We would teach our children not what to think but how to. In addition, we would show them how to critically and rationally disagree with us. Above all, we would show them how to evaluate evidence to think critically, and we would show them we would never seek to indoctrinate them in any way.
13 In our schools, we would open our kids’ minds to a comprehension of ethics.
14 We would never shy away from decent, even irrational decent and always respect the right of others to disagree with us. Bad laws should be open to the harshest criticism.
15 We would never walk away from administering justice but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.
16 Lastly, we would question everything. What we see, what we feel, what we hear, what we read and what we are told until we understand the truth of it because thoughtlessness is the residue of things not understood and can never be a replacement for fact.
If these things indeed are the embodiment of the first Enlightenment. How do we stack up? Some societies and individuals could lay claim to attaining a measure of it. For example, in some countries, gender equality is more readily accepted, and there have been educational advances. Overall, the reader would conclude that, in most instances, our Enlightenment has yet to progress much.
This is no more empathised than in our understanding of free speech.
Are we honestly enlightened if we think we must legislate an emotion people already have and use to express hatred?
There is something fundamentally and humanely wrong with the proposition. An intolerable indecency suggests that we have made no advancement in our discernment of free speech.
If free speech’s only purpose is to denigrate, insult and humiliate, then we need to reappraise its purpose. Some say it identifies those perpetrating wrongdoing, but if it creates more evil than good, it’s a strange freedom for a so-called enlightened society to bequeath its citizens.
My thought for the day
An enlightened society is one in which the suggestion that we need to legislate one’s right to hate another person should be considered intellectually barren.
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