Weapons of Reason’s sixth issue, Towards Superintelligence, explores technological innovation and where artificial intelligence could take us, through accessible illustrations, unbiased articles, with solutions to inspire action.
I grew up in the 1990’s with the latest technology at my fingertips as my dad and uncles were computer programmers. While I didn’t inherit their great mathematical coding abilities, their enthusiasm for driving change with technology was infectious. It came as no surprise that I joined their startup tech company, founded a few years after I graduated. So I work in an organisation that uses cutting-edge technology to develop solutions for social care.
“I don’t think I need to hide my online activity but I can’t help but feel dubious. Collection of data seems a lot like a violation of my privacy, especially when I don’t know how it will be used.”
But, the irony is, while I’m hugely committed to the benefits our technology gives to care home staff, residents and their families, I am uncomfortable with technology infiltrating parts of my own life. I don’t use a virtual assistant or install apps that may be listening in to my conversations, and I keep my purse unconnected to my phone.
My colleagues laugh at my technophobe ways! Many of them have wired their homes with smart devices and say that they don’t have a problem being tracked or monitored; they believe they have ‘nothing to hide’. I don’t think I need to hide my online activity but I can’t help but feel dubious. Collection of data seems a lot like a violation of my privacy, especially when I don’t know how it will be used.
Weapons of Reason and AI
I read Weapons of Reason’s sixth issue, Towards Superintelligence, with these complexities about technological innovation in mind. Weapons of Reason is an independent magazine that gives solutions to the biggest global challenges of the future. It’s created by Humans After All, a design agency based in London. The eight-issue project has already explored the topics of environment, population, health and ageing, society and power, and agriculture. The latest issue, published in 2019, focuses on digital innovation and artificial intelligence (AI).
Each issue of Weapons of Reason is split into three sections, exploring the past, present and future. Towards Superintelligence begins with the originator of AI, the automated loom created in 1725. It ends with the importance of machine ethics and how some people predict that technological singularity, “AI with general intelligence that will be able to improve itself exponentially,” could come as early as 2050.
The philosophy behind Weapons of Reason is threefold. Comprehensive journalism, rather than clickbait articles; world-class illustration to communicate complex ideas in clear visual language; and a project to inspire action. The colourful infographics in Weapons of Reason artfully explain each idea in an accessible way. I appreciated the ‘What’s Next’ boxes at the end of most articles, explaining practical next steps or solutions to the challenges we face with technological innovation.
Yet I think it is the quote from Marcus Aurelius that gave Weapons of Reason its name, that really communicates the magazine’s vision of turning knowledge into action: “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” Every article in Weapons of Reason is unbiased and factual so readers are armed with knowledge, not opinions. It’s a lot easier to act and to be a ‘doer’ and make changes in the world when we’re armed with information rather than scare stories.
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”Marcus Auerlius
Future challenges with technology
Weapons of Reason didn’t put all my concerns about technology to rest. But it gave me context for my fears, and the knowledge of why I had them in the first place. Now I understand why I’m uncomfortable with virtual assistants or sharing too many photos online as I learnt that a fake can be created with just 20 minutes of voice footage, crazy right?!
Weapons of Reason doesn’t advise us to stop using technology, only exposes the problems with it and possible solutions. Such as AI being informed by racist structures and the implications for users. I now understand the importance of a moral and ethical framework for technology and the challenges we are likely to face in future.
The final two issues of Weapons of Reason are on the horizon and I’m intrigued to know which challenges facing the planet they will articulate in them. And then, I wonder what the global challenges will be once they’ve published those issues?
Weapons of Reason issue 6 was sent to me through my Stack Magazines subscription in March 2019.