What Henry Kissinger Can Tell Us about the Coming Rule of Digital Technology

By Poulos, James | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), August 18, 2018 | Go to article overview

What Henry Kissinger Can Tell Us about the Coming Rule of Digital Technology


Poulos, James, Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


Henry Kissinger is back in the spotlight. At his well-advanced age, Kissinger has clearly been troubled enough by world events to make public his views on what’s at stake. Many elder elites belonging to the world Kissinger helped create are responding with increasingly vocal alarm to what they rightly suspect is the end of their era. Kissinger is considerably more coy or careful in his analysis. But in other places he is very blunt. At a time when more and more voices, no matter how well-credentialed, are becoming less and less essential, why bother listening to Kissinger at all?

The answer is that Kissinger helps us comprehend the relationship between the rise of Donald Trump and the coming rule of digital technology. So far, Kissinger has given us three clues about how to puzzle it through.

The first is a brief essay, published in The Atlantic, on the potential peril posed by artificial intelligence. Entitled “How the Enlightenment Ends,” the piece turns on two key passages. “What would be the impact on history of self-learning machines,” Kissinger asks in the first — “machines that acquired knowledge by processes particular to themselves, and applied that knowledge to ends for which there may be no category of human understanding? Would these machines learn to communicate with one another? How would choices be made among emerging options? Was it possible that human history might go the way of the Incas, faced with a Spanish culture incomprehensible and even awe-inspiring to them?”

In the second passage, Kissinger explains that his consultations among the tech elite left him with deeper concerns, not comforting answers. Today’s political and psychological environment, he suggests, was formed by a rational, even rationalist approach to information. “Individual insight and scientific knowledge replaced faith as the principal criterion of human consciousness.” However, “that order is now in upheaval amid a new, even more sweeping technological revolution” — one, Kissinger adds, “whose consequences we have failed to fully reckon with, and whose culmination may be a world relying on machines powered by data and algorithms and ungoverned by ethical or philosophical norms.”

Put a bit more concretely, Kissinger is saying our tech elite has failed to convince him that they really know what they are doing. The machines they are building threaten to instantiate a new world order based neither on rationalist knowledge nor on religious faith, becoming not only all-powerful but unintelligible to human beings. Today, scientists are already convinced that our traditional and commonsensical idea of cause and effect is not really how our universe operates. Their replacement theory is “emergence,” wherein systems or sets of information complexly produce or give rise to events and things over time. Artificial intelligence promises to run so many tests of possible emergences so fast that it’s impossible for humans to know exactly what they are doing and exactly what is coming. The bots will be as gods.

This is the light in which we should think about Kissinger’s second statement, in a recent Financial Times interview, that “we are in a very, very grave period for the world. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

What Henry Kissinger Can Tell Us about the Coming Rule of Digital Technology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.