Imagining a Future Union of Artificial Intelligences (UAI)

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 8 Apr 2024

Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens - TRANSCEND Media Service

By Reframing the History of a Union of International Associations (UIA)

Introduction

8 Apr 2024 – There is a degree of speculative concern regarding the manner in which AI will come to dominate human society and global governance (Existential risk from artificial general intelligence, Wikipedia; AI takeover, Wikipedia). This adds to the active current concern about the potential dangers of AI in the immediate future, most notably with respect to loss of jobs and the dissemination of misinformation undermining democratic decision-making. The response to such concerns is already evident in various regulatory initiatives regarding protection from misuse of AI (Artificial Intelligence Act, Wikipedia; World’s first major act to regulate AI passed by European lawmakers, CNBC, 14 March 2024).

Given the predicted emergence of a multiplicity of AIs, the speculative possibility explored here is any subsequent emergence of a “Union of Artificial Intelligences”. Of related interest is how such a “union” might be designed by AIs and comprehended from a human perspective — whether or not this is framed in terms of a predicted technological singularity, or a psychosocial analogue (Emerging Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society, 2009). This exploration is a further development of Eliciting a Pattern that Connects with AI? (2024) — written as an experimental exchange with ChatGPT in quest of memorable integrative configuration.

Other speculation has focused on the emergence of a “global brain” as a neuroscience-inspired and futurological vision of the planetary information and communications technology network that interconnects all humans and their technological artifacts (Francis Heylighen, What is the global brain?,  Principia Cybernetica Web; Peter Russell, The Awakening Earth: the Global Brain, 1982; Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web: the original design and ultimate destiny of the World Wide Web by its inventor,  1999; Howard Bloom,  Global Brain: the evolution of mass mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, 2000). Given the hyperspecialization of search engine responses, that meme then invites speculation on a corpus callosum (Corpus Callosum of the Global Brain?: locating the integrative function within the world wide web, 2014).

These possibilities are framed by the explosive development of the Internet and the Internet of Things — namely the devices with sensors, processing ability, software and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over communications networks. This development has evoked focus on the identification of the “father of the Internet” — with a degree of controversy regarding competing claims to such paternity, variously associated from a technical perspective with Vinton Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Vannevar Bush, Douglas Englebart, and Ted Nelson.

One argument in that respect notes the early role of Paul Otlet in envisaging and implementing a precursor of the Internet — prior to the possibilities later offered by computers. If he is indeed to be recognized as the “father of the Internet”, debate regarding paternity could transform other claimants into surrogates of some form — following further analysis of “memetic DNA”. Otlet’s vision is recognized as having given rise to the Mundaneum in 1910, and to the extensive cataloguing with which it was associated.

Somewhat ironically, the technical focus of Internet historians tends to avoid recognition of the other bodies instigated by Otlet in the same period as the Mundaneum — and envisaged as a necessary complement to its functions. These could be understood as initiatives towards an even higher order of implementation of an “Internet” — potentially comparable with any coordinative role with which a Union of Artificial Intelligences might come to be associated.

One of these was the Union des Associations Internationales (UAI) — or Union of International Associations (UIA) — founded by Otlet in 1907 as the Central Office of International Associations with  Henri La Fontaine (Nobel Peace Prize laureate 1913). This was preceded by their creation in 1895 of the International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID) — a sister body — to promote universal access to all recorded knowledge through the creation of an international classification system, known as the UDC. Originally titled the Institut International de Bibliographie, the FID provided the context for the early work of the Mundaneum.

The development and setbacks of the Union of International Associations since 1907 therefore offer a lens though which an emergent Union des Intelligences Artificielles (UAI) might be usefully explored — as a “reincarnation” of Otlet’s centennial dream and an indication of the challenges it might face in systemic terms (Georges Patrick Speeckaert, A Glance at Sixty Years of Activity (1910-1970) of the Union of International Associations, 1970). Earlier exercises of relevance have included the presentation of UIA online initiatives to the First Global Brain Workshop (Simulating a Global Brain: using networks of international organizations, world problems, strategies, and values, 2001) and a speculative complement (Union of International Associations — Virtual Organization: Paul Otlet’s 100-year hypertext conundrum? 2001).

A similar comparison between “what might be” and “what might have been” could of course be usefully made using the United Nations — interpreting “nations” as intelligences instead of “associations”.

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