In 1818, a 20-year-old woman named Mary Shelley anonymously published her first novel titled ‘Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus’. The book told the story of the proverbial mad scientist who reanimated a corpse and created a monster. Decades after the book’s publication, several scientists started taking that imagination seriously. It wasn’t long before breath-taking research on reanimating corpses commenced. This real Frankenstein experiment toyed with the idea of bringing dead things to life with the power of electricity. Luigi Galvani, an Italian super scientist who can be described as a chemist, physicist, anatomist, physician, and philosopher was prominent in this experiment. The process was later named Galvanism and the practitioners were called the Galvanists in his honour.
As this experiment advanced, local churches especially in Scotland where Andrew Ure, a young Scottish scientist was leading this reanimation charge were agitated to the extent of threatening to take laws into their hands if these scientists continue to ‘summon devils’ in their labs. Questions were even asked in government circles about what the law would require if a criminal put to death by the state actually had come back to life through this experiment, and the consensus view was that he has to be hanged a second time.
The story goes that at one point, these scientists got as far as developing a steady heart rhythm when a dead man started groaning like a real Frankenstein. At that point, everybody got seriously freaked out and shut down the experiment, letting the man die for good. Despite the rascality of these experiments, it wasn’t lacking supporters. Charles Wilkinson argued that galvanism was “an energizing principle which forms the line of distinction between matter and spirit, constituting in the great chain of the creation, the intervening link between corporal substance and the essence of vitality”.
I highlighted this story to buttress that from the biblical story of the Tower of Babel project, man has not stopped embarking on misadventures from generation to generation. To think that science made Frankenstein seem so real in 1818 is enough to call for caution on the current rave on ‘trans-mania’ and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in spite of their purported harmlessness in our contemporary world.
Recently, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has invoked a range of responses and arguments similar to those expressed on the prospect of electric life then. The unmistakable truth is that AI empowered technology can have a positive impact to mankind but also, there is an undeniable fact that it can be disastrous to humanity especially when it is unleashed by actors with zero regards for ethical and legal considerations.
Max Tegmark, the president of the Future of Life Institute was once quoted as saying “everything we love about civilization is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilization flourish like never before’’. He however ended with a very strong caveat that it is “as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial”.
Technology must match our values. Depending on machines for all decisions will eventually rob man of the ability to think, and interact effectively with others. What will human beings be doing when AI takes over most of the jobs? Can humanity control AI as it evolves if its intelligence eventually supersedes human intelligence in the future? Is it not worrisome that people now attend churches where robots give sermons using AI? How about chatting with the ChatGPT application instead of chatting with our fellow human beings despite the fact that the app sometimes chats off track? Our capacity to modify our behaviour subject to empathy, conscience, human feelings and associated ethical framework will be further reduced as AI applications widens if its irrelevant usage is not checked. We cannot expect AI to be ethical on our behalf. AI might end up amplifying the worst qualities of man. Long term negatives of AI might take decades to become recognizable.
While the crave for AI continues, its ultimate impact on humanity remains uncertain as the technology and its applications evolve. The signs are already there that the danger lies in its applications. Unfortunately, it appears that the risks of AI are currently being glossed over. The sentiment and excitement of its limitless opportunities is obscuring the inherent risks of its holistic applications. The scale of its opportunities and threats is worrisome. It is therefore not surprising that the likes of Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and Geoffrey Hinton, – the godfather of AI have called for a pause on further advancements in the developments of AI citing “the profound risks to society and humanity”. Hopefully, the world will listen.
Decades ago, when a celebrated sex psychologist, John Money, was determined to show the world that he could transform a boy into a girl through his misguided procedures, the world didn’t take him seriously. John Money claimed that while biological sex may be innate, gender identity (sexual orientation) is socially constructed; sex is irrelevant and what truly matters is which gender a person feels he is.
This logic is what gave rise to the transgender world we have today. A woman is no longer someone that was born biologically a woman. Today, a woman is any person that feels like a woman and wants to be identified as a woman. The same applies to men that feel that they are women in a man’s body. Thinking otherwise in our contemporary world is seen as an attempt to invalidate a transgender person.
The “trans phenomenon” has now graduated to trans-able (for able bodied man that want to feel like disabled person), trans minor (for full grown adults who wants to feel like children), trans-race (with skin whitening and skin darkening processes, you can change your race from black to white and vice versa if you feel black while born white and vice versa), trans animal (for humans that wants to be identified with animals). Currently, the Scottish government guidelines that encourage transgenderism and encourage children to ‘self-identify’ have seen a growing number of pupils identifying as fox, cat, moon, etc in class. The church of England is seriously considering the use of gender-neutral terms for God, thus they will stop referring to God as ‘He’. The slogan that “God is not binary” is becoming popular in the western world. The possibilities of the ‘trans-agenda’ are endless. We are still at the beginning stage! This notion that you can be anything you feel like is not about to abate soon.
The world as we used to know it is changing fast. Human reasoning and rationality are being derailed when we are being forced to ignore all evidence before our own eyes and pretend that people are something they are clearly not, and doing otherwise will amount to violation of their rights to ‘self-identify’ with anything. If we dare tell them the truth, we will be guilty of violating their rights and risk jail time. Under the guise of ensuring that everyone’s rights are respected, we are deliberately replacing truth and reality with lies and fictions. Common sense and reasoning are now an aberration that are no longer allowed. What a new world we are re-creating!
To think that Africa is isolated from this western lifestyle is wishful thinking. Years back, I used to believe that Nigerians are too life loving to be suicide bombers and terrorists, and that we are too religiously inclined (Christians and Moslems alike) to be openly identified as gays and lesbians. Today, the reality is that these characters are now in the four corners of the country. Technology has increased the interconnectivity of the world. Thus, what happens in other climes will eventually trickle down to the motherland and with the ‘Japa-syndrome’ still in full gear, it will only happen faster than expected if nothing is done to check-mate it. It is imperative to take a position and speak out before our wards accept an abnormality as the new normal. There should be limits to freedom otherwise humanity would pay a huge price for allowing limitless freedom. Indeed, not everything that is legal is morally right.
Nwolisa is a Lagos-based Economist