, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 39–50 | Cite as

Antecapere ergo sum: what price knowledge?

  • Mihai NadinEmail author
25th Anniversary Volume A Faustian Exchange: What is to be human in the era of Ubiquitous Technology?


In the age of ubiquitous technology, humans are reshaped through each transaction they are involved in. AI-driven networks, online games, and multisensory interactive environments make up alternate realities. Within such alternate worlds, users are reshaped as deterministic agents. Technology’s focus on reducing complexity leads to a human being dependent on prediction-driven machines and behaving like them. Meaning and information are disconnected. Existence is reduced to energy processes. The immense gain in efficiency translates as prosperity. Citizens of advanced economies, hurrying in the rhythm of machine-driven interactions, feel entitled to it. Successful at the price of self-awareness, they no longer know what this means. Happiness and prosperity are not consubstantial. Lack of happiness leads to aggression. This is the image of the world as we see it, no longer looking at each other, eye to eye, but screen to screen. The questions eliminated in the process of transferring responsibility from the individual to machines will inevitably become society’s new focus. When the goal is to get everyone to behave like a machine, the Singularity hypothesis becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. If, in addition to having exhausted natural resources, society does not want to end up making the human mind superfluous, it has to seek a better understanding of what makes anticipation possible. As a definitory characteristic of the living, corresponding to its complexity, anticipation can no longer be taken for granted, while every effort is made to reduce complexity for efficiency’s sake. Awareness of the processes conducive to its expression in successful human action will position human beings as masters of their destiny, not slaves of their own making. Antecapere ergo sum might be the counterclaim to Descartes’ Dubito ergo sum. To resist being perfected into oblivion, that is, unsustainable prosperity, means to reclaim the knowledge corresponding to higher levels of complexity.


Anticipation Complexity Information Meaning Singularity Transaction 



In some ways, my first meeting with Joseph Weizenbaum (Interface—Multimediale, Hamburg 1993) was the beginning of this article. Our views on the “digital age” were quite different, but our respective assessments of the impact of the digital on the human being were congruent. Over time, Heinz von Foerster (whom I met on the same occasion), Terry Winograd, Lotfi Zadeh, E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Wolfgang Coy, Hans-Jörg Kreowski, and Solomon Marcus offered me the opportunity to continue the dialog. Even Steven Wolfram agreed to disagree with me on matters of anticipation. Finally, Karamjit Gill gave me the opportunity to put my thoughts, accumulated over some time, to paper. Mike Cooley and Larry Stapleton, the peers who reviewed my paper, thought that it deserves the readers’ attention. I owe them my gratitude for suggesting improvements. Of course, antÉ—Institute for Research in Anticipatory Systems at the University of Texas at Dallas and my current host, the Hanse Institute for Advanced Studies, deserve credit for facilitating the work, as does Elvira Nadin, my right hand and my heart. Christian Freksa and Otthein Herzog are my research partners at the Institute, while Reto Weiler and Dorothe Poggel do their best to support my endeavors. For whatever the reader might find fault with, I stand and remain willing to learn from others (and to correct myself as necessary).


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© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Research in Anticipatory SystemsUniversity of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

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