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Collaboration is better than competition (post n.3)

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A collaborative AI development approach will bring humanity to the next level of Intelligence.

Key assertions:

  • A natural thing is something that we consider right for what it is. Sometimes we consider “natural” things that are instead a creation of modern culture.
  • We consider competition among humans as a natural thing. But that is not the case.
  • Thriving competition has brought humanity to the limit of the possible exploitation of natural resources, the creation of weapons of mass destruction and, nowadays, a permanent violation of individual integrity.
  • Collaboration, instead, is the pillar which has supported the growth of civilization. Humans recognized that to secure the lives of their children, they needed to trust each other and assign to each other different, specialized roles.
  • Cities were founded to protect the population and to foster trade, research, sharing of discoveries and accelerate progress. From cities came nations, from nations the internet.
  • The internet is the most powerful source of collaboration nowadays, and AI is mainstream. Should an open-source approach to developing AI prevail, HI and AI will merge in an incredible new way of living: Hybrid Intelligence.
  • On the contrary, if HI focuses on competition and exploits AI to annihilate others, it is not unlikely that a “Terminator-like” scenario will occur. Robots will become the ultimate weapons of military competition.
  • Collaboration is definitively better and more desirable than competition in the quest for the AI of the future.

When we come across something that we consider “natural,” we tend to accept the thing as it is, to consider it inevitable and just; we assume that it has always been such.

We do not refute the supposed “natural thing” in any way, and we do not consider that it could be a creation of modern culture.

How collaboration can change the initial picture

We consider competition “natural behavior.” The donkeys in the pictures above operate instinctively against each other; they are exhausted by the effort and reduce their resources unprofitably. When they decide to collaborate, they effortlessly achieve their objective and can now pursue more challenging tasks.

Nowadays, businesses strive to find a competitive advantage over other companies. In the past, five-year business plans were the foundation to implement strategies, but today’s corporate actions have a timeframe of one year. The velocity of competition has skyrocketed.

In this context, we consider competition to be something natural, so it is accepted, it is treated as inevitable and right, it has always existed—we cannot ignore it in modern culture.

From competition derives zero-sum games—one wins, the other loses, white or black, 0 or 1. Extending this logic to a larger scheme and applying it to global politics can lead to disastrous consequences, starting from protectionism and aggressive economic policies.

Competition for resources leads to conflicts over religious, political, geographic and military supremacy.

The direction that humanity is taking in the search for supremacy through competition has reached the limit putting at risk the environmental balance between economic wealth and natural resource availability.

Continuous military escalation involving inhumane consequences and the risk of using nuclear devices, ordinary lives threatened by terrorism, and banal, but extremely deleterious violations of everyone’s privacy are common items in the daily news.

So, are we sure that competing is a natural law?

This model is not natural but cultural: The binary logic of the winners and the losers in a world that has the potential to satisfy the primary needs of every human being is not ineluctable.

Collaboration can lead humans to live an existence full of meaning and with significantly less stress.

In the modern world, in the last 3,000 years, the most extreme forms of competition have resulted in continuous wars and in turn to unspeakable suffering.

On the other hand, average life expectancy has reached its highest-ever levels in recent years.

The reason is simple: Civilization has developed in a continuous alternation between collaboration and competition. As long as there are people who fight each other, there are people who collaborate.

Collaboration has been a fundamental part of human behavior since time immemorial. In fact, the most effective technique for the survival of prehistoric humans in a world of giant predators was collaboration; it was the beginning of a practice of mutual aid that eventually bred culture, language and civilization.

Our ancestors realized that the competition of group against group did not allow long-term survival; instead, joining and sharing tasks was a winning strategy. Villages and then cities were born.

Technological discoveries, when shared, brought widespread improvements in quality of life and life expectancy: Collaboration has constituted the most natural model to stabilize humanity; it has subsequently allowed competition, an engine for development, but also for extreme, unstable situations.

Medical research, military “evolutions,” the steam engine, mass production of energy, automobiles, personal computers, smartphones and the internet are some of the technologies that have changed humanity in modern history.

Competition is a distortion of collaboration, probably born because it can provide a more profitable and quicker payout to those who prevail over others (there is no need to recall here the Prisoner’s Dilemma).

In recent years, in the search for competitive supremacy, AI has become a source of competitive advantage, and it is seen as promising the next level of exponential improvements in productivity, up to scenarios of definitive substitution of human beings (disappearance of human work up to Terminator-like scenarios).

The most unnatural of technologies, AI could sanction the definitive affirmation of competition over collaboration and make sure that competing becomes the only natural strategy for the development or decline of humanity.

What if AI were used to collaborate and not to compete?

Nowadays, in the golden age of computational technology, humanity is at a crossroads.

The key is to create conditions in which start-ups, corporations, nations will eventually return to the spirit of mutual support in wanting to create a peaceful and collaborative modern age around AI.

More time for humans will mean freeing up time for creativity and self-understanding. Then, the next generations will be able to experience a fuller existence, without competition for resources, with their primary needs satisfied and with time to devote to understanding the meaning of existence.

The nature of things will be restored.

Collaboration is better than competition: humans should collaborate to build the next frontier of humanity around AI.

The suggested book is “The Zero Marginal Cost Society” by Jeremy Rifkin.

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About the author

Spiridione, my middle name, has strong Greek origins, and Greek philosophy is still current and pervasive, which is why I called the website spiridione.com.

During my adolescence my preferred books were those that covered philosophical questions. At 19, I moved to Milan and then graduated from Bocconi University with a degree in Business Administration at 24. – Read more

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