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ChatGPT, DALL-E, VALL-E and Co. meet philosophy

Robot and old philosopher meet: starry sky above, an artificial neural network below.

Artificial intelligence that can write texts at the highest linguistic level, program, paint pictures or imitate voices: the media is full of news about ChatGPT, DALL-E, VALL-E and other intelligent tools. Such developments are made possible by artificial neural networks (ANN). They can analyze massive amounts of data, detect and correlate patterns at breathtaking speeds – faster and more efficiently than we ever could.

When reading this news, which is always linked to the question of whether we humans will soon become superfluous, we had to think of an interview with the Austrian philosopher Konrad Paul Liessmann that we did some time ago in connection with developments surrounding the topic of robotics , automation processes and artificial intelligence. We would like to present to you his thoughts, some of which are very provocative. We're excited to hear what you think about it. Because Prof. Liessmann shows what we humans can learn from antiquity and draws comparisons to slavery.

Photo: Konrad Paul Liessmann

The philosopher Konrad Paul Liessmann on modern slavery

In the past, people let others work for them: these were slaves and beasts of burden. Today there are corresponding technologies, machines and robots. It's actually surprising that we increasingly find it threatening that machines are taking our work off of us. That's why we invented them! And the more intelligent these machines are, the better they can relieve us of complex, strenuous, monotonous or boring work. But the fact is: As soon as the “relief” falls into the area of INTELLECTUAL work, the question immediately arises: “Are we humans becoming superfluous? Will we be replaced by artificial intelligence?” However, one must keep the following in mind: Even if developments in the field of artificial intelligence are making great progress, humans are still the final recipients. Because the robots that will assemble iPhones in the future will do it for US. Robots don't need cell phones. And those intelligent care robots that are used instead of a human caregiver care for PEOPLE - and not robots.

As long as we are the ultimate recipients of automation and mechanization processes, we really only have to ask ourselves the following question:

  • If all this work is done by intelligent systems and machines, what do people do with their “leftover” time?

  • And what social consequences do these developments have?

Even if people remain the ultimate addressee and therefore “consumers”, the discussion about the unconditional basic income inevitably comes into play. Because if those companies that have their cell phones manufactured by ROBOTS in the future make a profit, this profit must also be distributed differently: namely to those who have lost their jobs and will no longer be able to find another one because automation and mechanization are becoming ever more widespread will take hold. An urgent question is therefore: Why should only human labor be taxed, but not mechanical labor? I am of the opinion that there is no way around the “machine tax”. The “fruits” of productivity advances generated by technology must be distributed to everyone. Otherwise we will “starve” and social tensions are inevitable. Even among the “experts” there is no uniform opinion as to whether the creation of new jobs for those unemployed people who have been “replaced” by technologies can in turn be achieved through innovative technologies.

Work is something undignified! Let's let the machines do it!

So that means: If intelligent systems increasingly replace the doctor, the interpreter, the teacher, the scientist, the lawyer, and even the programmer (because machines will already be programming and reproducing themselves in the third or fourth generation), you have to think about them Ask the question: What do people do when they no longer have a job? And here we could take a closer look at those life models from an ancient past that show that one can live wonderfully even without work. Back then, people said to themselves: “Slaves do the work!” If we today had the self-confidence that the free citizen of an ancient polis displayed, we would say to ourselves: Work is something unworthy of humanity! Let’s let machines or digital assistants do it for us! Instead, we could do what machines CANNOT do: communicate and engage with other humans. An example that perhaps supports what has been said:

As is well known, it was a great tragedy for many people when the first computer beat the world chess champion in 1996. A machine (!) played chess better than Garry Kasparov! Interestingly, this fact has not stopped a single chess player from playing chess. We now KNOW: No chess player in the world has a chance against these types of machines. But that only meant that we were no longer interested in the machines. Nowadays, anyone could download a chess app that beats them every day. But we don't do that. Why not? We want to play chess with our friends or children, in a sports club or chess club. So we still play chess – but with PEOPLE. So you can develop intelligent systems that can do certain activities better than us humans. But: As long as these are activities that are carried out between people and bring joy (!), we will also carry out these activities...

Certain activities will increase in value simply because they do not have to be carried out.

I therefore think it is a fundamental error in thinking that just because a system can do something better, people must lose joy in it. Quite the opposite! Work can also be fun. But what does that mean for work in general? The interesting thing about such developments is that work goes from being a curse to being a self-determined activity as soon as you no longer HAVE to do it. In highly technical agriculture, for example, no one would have to grow fruit or vegetables themselves. But that's exactly what more and more people are doing. And not because they are hungry or in an emergency situation. But because they say to themselves: “I like home-grown things better and I love gardening. And that's why I do 'urban gardening' on my little balcony!” However, this concept assumes that this activity is no longer classified as wage work.

We know that machines can satisfy many of our basic needs. But we'll still have fun doing some things ourselves. So the craft will not die out. Because: Certain things are simply different when they are made by humans. And people are increasingly placing more value on this “other”. Nobody is obliged to practice urban gardening. Because everyone can buy their fruit in the supermarket. But some STILL do it. And this example is just one of many. Certain activities will gain in value again because they don't have to be carried out (!).

So I think that in a society in which our needs can increasingly be satisfied by automated work by machines, the areas of activity that people then want to pursue will simply “re-differentiate”. And we could then be free to do things that are appropriate for us as people. But it would be irresponsible to send people into a competition with machines. [1]


These are the thoughts of Prof. Liessmann that we were able to elicit from him some time ago. If you want to know what's going on outside of ChatGPT and Co., you can always take a look at our innovation compass , which contains thousands of innovations across all trends and industries. If you haven't registered yet, you can do so now:

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With this in mind, “resourceful greetings” from the INNO-VERSE Klaudia, Franz and the entire in-manas team



[1] The entire length of the interview can be found in the magazine IMP Perspectives, Issue 6: Weber, K., Bailom, F. (2015). IMP Perspectives 6, Growth through differentiation. Better? Different? Better completely different? (pp. 139-143)


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