Role of Humans in a Digital World: A Neohumanist Narrative

by Dr. Shambhushivananda

At one stage in our evolution, humans were just one of the many dominant creatures on this planet earth. Today, the earth is under the command of humans (homo-sapiens) while all other creatures are almost at their mercy. Even invisible viruses do not escape human wrath, and as soon as they interfere in human survival, they attract a collective global attack to cause their annihilation.

Some scholars have predicted that humans will evolve into super humans where ordinary humans will become mere slaves to a new breed of humans who will be masters of genetic engineering, control biometric data, utilize artificial intelligence, machine learning and augmented virtual reality and will relegate ordinary humans to the category of subhuman ‘irrelevant’ species. This science fiction scenario posited by some is still speculation. Not all projections are likely to actualize but this is definitely a scenario worth addressing.

Human interface with machines is not new on the planet, and humans have integrated nature’s powers in their lives for their advantage from very early days, with the discovery of fire. Nature, both inorganic and organic, holds immense power. As humans begin to tap the potential of nature and begin to harness it by intelligent design, the question of the future of human society and the survival of its norms comes into a sharper focus.

Will the institution of family still exist? Will humans still exercise compassion in all their dealings? Will robotic society cause the disappearance of human emotions? Will human-designed algorithms replace natural evolution of different species completely? What will happen to the consciousness of humans and other beings? Will the theory of reincarnation still hold? Will religious, political, and economic institutions still play a dominant role in human affairs? Will the distinction between mind and consciousness become clearer? Will humans become sort of immortal, with an indefinite shelf life? Would laboratory babies be as intelligent as the naturally born babies of today? Would designer babies have any independent thinking or would they display only programmed ‘smart thinking’? How will our sense of the meaning and purpose of life evolve over time? Will the society of the future have any moral dilemmas? Would there be any role for ‘revolutions’ in the future society of AI-dominated scenarios? Could coordinated cooperation and competition create a benevolent future for all species?

Before we can address such questions, we must understand the role of humans in the cosmological order. Humans did not just emerge out of matter, whether organic or inorganic, nor out of nowhere. Matter and humans both have originated from primordial Transcendental Consciousness and carry the potential of that highest consciousness. The Supreme Consciousness is far subtler than Cosmic Mind and all manifestations of Cosmic Mind are merely the cruder manifestations of the greater powers embodied within Cosmic Mind. Thus, what the Cosmic Mind has been doing until the present continues to be taken over by human minds in slow and gradual steps. All human powers are the manifestations of a higher Force—Cosmic Mind— and ultimately the Supreme Consciousness. So, there is no reason to panic over technological scenarios proposed by some scholars. Ultimately, the all-benevolent Consciousness, the macro-psychic volition holds the strings of evolution. The Supreme Consciousness (and its macro-psychic volition) is not a dualistic god as religions understand it, but the embodiment of Cognition (Cosmic Intelligence) and the cosmic energy, which made it possible for creation to occur in the first place. So the Cosmic Operative Principle can never outperform the Cosmic Cognitive Faculty to which it is subservient. Equipped with understanding of the missing link between organic and inorganic, through a science of the building blocks of subatomic structures, developed minds shall be able to motivate human beings to create a harmonious society where all can live in the balance, harmony and inspired love of cosmic divinity. This alternative scenario provides a hopeful and assuring benevolent future for human society.

Furthermore, each human being possesses something that has the potential to be connected with that highest consciousness. That unit consciousness is the real ‘owner’ of all that we can truly claim as ours. Thus, while machines may begin to control the bodies or crude minds of humans, they can never overpower the unit consciousness since machines do not possess the subtlest consciousness of humans. If they ever can, the same laws of consciousness, which Cosmic Consciousness represents, will guide them, too. Cosmic Consciousness is not merely a repository of all power, but also of infinite love. This love will continue to preserve and nurture an alternative scenario for the human society of the future.

It is with this premise that the philosophy of neohumanism propounded by Shri P.R. Sarkar asserts that every entity in the universe will always have two basic values—existential value and utility value. Furthermore, the reins of creation do not lie ultimately in the hands of frail or super humans but with a higher power, the macro-psychic volition of divine Supreme Consciousness. Humans can unite with the highest consciousness, but that is only possible through a process of increasing expansion of magnanimity of mind until the interests of all become the interests of each entity. Machines will never be able to become one with Highest Consciousness without going through the process of emotional enlargement and psycho-spiritual development. So even in the age of artificial intelligence and augmented reality, humans, as the owners of AI, will need to undertake such meditative practices that will enable the unification of the unit consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness. That alone could satiate their eternal craving for greater happiness, enlarged magnanimity, everlasting bliss and realization of Love Divine.

The primary task for the leaders of the human race today is, therefore, to build systems, which will nurture a neohumanist spirit in all domains of human endeavor. No other ideology is comprehensive and compassionate enough to care for the welfare of all beings—sentient or non-sentient. All have a place in this creation and we must learn to understand and preserve the existential and utility values of all manifestations of Supreme Consciousness. This work needs to be conducted by the wisdom teachers, neohumanist educators, and by the institutions that prepare the young for the challenges of tomorrow.

As for the questions raised earlier about the nature of a future human society, all we can say at this point is that evolutionary forces will continue to transform us in myriad ways. While there may be greater control over our bodies and crude minds and the world around us, the inherent reactive momenta embodied in our genetic codes will continue to manifest diversity of unparalleled proportions. The source of diversity in creation comes from the subtler domains of existence and we must respect that diversity and preserve it in order to maintain the aesthetic quality of creation. So in the world of AI and machine learning, humans will still be in command and will still serve as the trustees of the real owner, the Supreme Consciousness. Hopefully they will act in the interests of all—animate and inanimate, living and non-living, humans and machines. If, overall, they do not, at least some humans will have the wisdom to replace controllers of artificially intelligent machines with greater benevolent consciousness through an intellectual revolution empowered by the force of the collective spirit. Our gurukulas will help assure that there will be enough progressive individuals with such wisdom at all times.

Thus, human beings should use the spare time generated by increased use of AI to serve fellow living beings through imagination and creativity, make greater use of intuitional intelligence and experience the coveted joys of spiritual stillness and divine bliss-consciousness, the inherent longing of human existence. The culture of devotion is a blissful legacy of the human race. It would be a shame to lose it to a culture of robotics and a mechanistic futuristic scenario.