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Humanities in the Era of Trans-humanism
2016년 05월 03일 (화) 12:37:16 GLOBE globe@jbnu.ac.kr


A few months ago, a Google computer program called AlphaGo beat the Go master Lee Se-dol. Since it had been thought for a long time that Go was too complex for any artificial intelligence to be able to conquer it, many people were immensely shocked at the loss of Lee. As the founder of Google’s artificial intelligence has commented, AlphaGo’s victory was a “historical moment” in human being’s evolution.
Some scholars emphasize, in this regard, that human beings should prepare themselves for what is often called the “trans-humanistic era” or “post-humanistic era.” Philosophically speaking, trans-humanism is a view that our human conditions should and will be transformed or enhanced with the help of highly sophisticated technologies, including artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and so forth. Thus, the trans-humanistic theorists attempt to study the relationship between human nature and the highly advanced technologies, and so disclose clearly potential danger and benefits of the technologies’ impact on our future world.
Here we need to pay attention to another event that has received less attention than it deserves. A few weeks ago, National Public Radio, which is a public radio network in the US, reported news titled “Can Computer Programs Be Racist and Sexist?” As is well known, Google has a software program that is able to store images and automatically group them together by several categories — for example, friends, dogs, cats, and so forth. According to the report, the software labeled a picture of a Google user’s friend, who was African-American, as a non-human species or creature. The program works basically with the help of the feedback of its users. Thus, such a program is in danger of being racist or sexist under the influence of the biased feedback.
As was mentioned, our future world will be trans-humanistic. Highly sophisticated technologies will enhance human capacities and so overcome human limitations. Ironically, however, humanism should play an important role in such a trans-humanistic era. Trans-humanism without humanism will be blind, and humanism without trans-humanism will be empty.
For this reason, universities, which lead the development of science and technology, have fundamental responsibility to reinforce humanities research and education. Humanities-based science and technology education will help students to deliberate the potential technological impact on our human societies, and humanities education combined with the scientific and technological achievement will give students opportunities to reflect on their academic concerns from a more practical viewpoint. In this regard, it is very good news that the humanities studies at CBNU will be supported for three years by a CORE (Initiative for College of Humanities’ Research and Education) project funded by the Ministry of Education. We really hope that this project will make a breakthrough in the humanities research and education at CBNU.


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