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The future of artificial intelligence, posthumanism and the inflection of Pixley Isaka Seme’s African humanism

Abstract

Increasingly, innovation in artificial intelligence technologies portends the re-conceptualization of human existentiality along the paradigm of posthumanism. An exposition of this through a critical culturo-historical methodology uncloaks the Eurocentric genitive basis of the philosophical anthropology that underpins this technological posthumanism, as well as its dystopian possibilities. As a contribution to obviating the latter, an Africanist civilizational humanism proclaimed by Pixley ka Isaka Seme is proffered as a plausible alternative paradigm for humanity’s technological advancement. Seme, a pan-Africanist thinker of the early twentieth century, proclaimed humanistic-spirituality as the indispensable gift African Civilisation-in-its-renaissance is yet to offer global humanity. His postulation is being provided as a contribution to the archive on cross-cultural ethics of artificial intelligence.

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Notes

  1. I employ the term “episteme” to denote the symbiotic and simultaneous relationship between the ethical, the epistemological and the cultural; that, an epistemological framework is inherently laced with a value judgment and that these manifest as culturo-intellectual practices.

  2. Artificial intelligence (AI) is here understood as a new paradigm and practice in technical science dating from the late 1950s that studies and develops theory, methods and application systems used to simulate and extend human patterns of cognition on to machines and related technology platforms.

  3. See for, e.g., Future of Life Institute. An open letter—research priorities for robust and beneficial artificial intelligence, January 2015. URL https://futureoflife.org/ai-open-letter/https://futureoflife.org/ai-open-letter/

  4. Existence, as a function of subjectivity, is ascribed exclusively to humans as the sum of self-consciousness. Other possible forms of existence, say as a cyborg, is granted as onto-existential.

  5. Julian Huxley, a distinguished biologist credited with coining the term “transhumanism” wrote in Religion Without Revelation (1927), “The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself – not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way – but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve, man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.” (quoted in Bostrom 2005, 7, own emphasis).

  6. That is, “the fulfilled Promise”, given our working understanding of posthumanism as being a belief system, a philosophical rationalisation directed to the service of the technologized humans, and a multi-species de-anthropocentric “society”.

  7. A more later work with a direct philosophical articulation of the sentiment expressed by Sloan is (Stiegler 2011).

  8. http://c250.columbia.edu/c250_celebrates/remarkable_columbians/pixley_ka_isakka_seme.html (accessed 2019–10-23).

  9. See Seme “Native Union” article in Imvo Zabantsundu, October 24, 1911 (in Karis & Carter 1972, p.72).

  10. Other biographical writings on Seme are (Rive and Couzens 1993); (Mashamaite 2011); (Karis and Carter 1977).

  11. For a record Seme’s formation of the Native Farmers’ Association in 1912 with its land buying programme, and his vision of black economic upliftment during his Presidency of the ANC in the 1930s (see Ngqulunga 2017, pp. 129–150, 178, 189–90).

  12. It is instructive that Heidegger wrote this essay, purportedly in response to Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism is Humanism” (1945), 2 years after the vanquishing of Nazi Germany, with whose ideology he had sympathised. By this time, the newly established United Nations with its Universal Declaration on Human Rights had seized the discourse on the uniqueness of human dignity and life.

  13. For a posthumanistic variation to this, see Olivier (2018).

  14. Time Magazine, February 21, 2011, http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16,641,20,110,221,00.html Accessed 20 November 2019.

  15. Smarter Mobility Conference 2019, Pretoria, South Africa, 2 October 2019 https://www.engineeringnews.co.za/article/auto-industry-faces-major-paradigm-shift-warns-toyota-sa-boss-2019-10-04

  16. Incidentally, during October 2019 Toyota unveiled an on-board vehicle control system which is designed to perform on a bond developed between the AI suite and the emotions and biological state of the driver. Named “Yui”, this AI suite delivers a personalised experience based on its monitoring of a driver's emotional state and alertness. The AI can engage with the driver using interactive voice communication, in-seat functions designed to increase alertness or reduce stress, fragrances and other human–machine interactions. https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/life/motoring/2019-10-17-meet-toyotas-onboard-buddy/ Accessed 17 October 2019.

  17. See, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2,048,299,00.html Accessed 20 October 2019.

  18. Quoted in Michael Woronko “Exploring the philosophical implications of our imminent clash with AI.” https,//medium.com/predict/artificial-intelligence-crossroads-c1dfc0cc29af Accessed 17 March 2019.

  19. See https://www8.cao.go.jp/cstp/english/basic/5thbasicplan.pdf.

  20. See www.neuralink.com.

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Funding

Research for this paper was supported by the National Research Foundation of South Africa, Grant 129124.

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Correspondence to Malesela John Lamola.

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Lamola, M.J. The future of artificial intelligence, posthumanism and the inflection of Pixley Isaka Seme’s African humanism. AI & Soc 37, 131–141 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-021-01191-3

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Keywords

  • Africa and fourth industrial revolution
  • General artificial intelligence
  • Transhumanism
  • Pixley seme
  • Philosophy of AI
  • Posthumanism
  • Society 5.0