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INTERVIEW: Hamlet's Mirror: Conflict and Artificial Intelligence with Andre Vlok
Issue 86: We discuss a new book grappling with social conflict driven by AI
In March 2023, Goldman Sachs reported that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs worldwide! That’s nearly the size of the entire U.S. population. With AI integration already happening in some workplaces, workers who fear losing their jobs to AI face AI anxiety, worry or fear regarding the advancement and impact of AI technology on daily life and societies.
Andre Vlok, a conflict resolution and mediation practitioner examines the impact of AI on conflict in his new book, “Hamlet’s Mirror: Conflict and Artificial Intelligence”. His timely book provide strategies to understand, prepare for, and thrive despite the human conflicts AI will create in our workplaces, relationships, and society.
Although it’s unclear what impact this technology will have, it is crucial that we prepare for change and try to mitigate some of the harmful impacts on society. Jay was recently asked to provide a blurb for the book and we decided to interview Andre to share his insights about intergroup conflict with you.
What does your book teach us about social identity or group dynamics?
The book deals with social identity as a necessary mechanism in understanding the various conflict areas that we focus on: the influence of artificial intelligence on war, geopolitical, economic, workplace and personal conflicts. In each conflict area, we notice how identity and group dynamics are essential for an effective understanding and management of conflicts, and the perilous consequences of getting that wrong.
We cannot effectively deal with AI conflicts and challenges unless we have a clear understanding of our social identities and group dynamics. The book explains how outdated conflict strategies are ineffective and can actually exacerbate existing conflict.
What is the most important idea readers will learn from your book?
The book navigates the fine line between current popular utopian and dystopian approaches. We reduce the many manifestations of the AI debate to consequences of human conflict, and this gives us a much more practical, agile handle on these developments.
We take an unflinching and honest look at the dangers that AI can bring into our environments by evaluating past, current and potential future mistakes that can be made, and we then map a journey towards effectively preparing ourselves for survival and prosperity in those divisions.
Why did you write this book and how did writing it change you?
As a mediator and conflict resolution practitioner, I have been been running up against AI-related conflicts on behalf of clients in recent years, especially in workplace and political scenarios. This research quickly grew into a fascination with the magnitude of the challenges and consequences ahead of us, and I soon realized that I needed to write the book in order to make sense of the questions that I kept running into.
I could not escape the conclusion that AI is here already, and that it demands a response from all of us. It struck me that we need not speculate on where AI is going as many of these AI conflicts are already here, having an influence on our decisions and wellbeing.
Global/regional repositioning and structural changes to the essence of some of our traditional conflicts and the ineffective use of outdated conflict principles at all levels made the book an urgent project. But I have an increased level of confidence that we can still end up in the right place.
What will readers find provocative or controversial about your book?
The book examines the shortcomings of utopian and dystopian approaches, global AI regulation inefficiencies, and unsettling workplace discussions. We notice how several of the current solutions to the AI age are inadequate, and that the real solutions will require hard work.
We also take a necessary look at how AI is, and will be, affecting our lives and practice of democracy, education, public surveillance, and the necessary trade-offs that we will be asked to make soon as far as smart cities, law enforcement, and so on are concerned.
The books also deals with the place and value of the universal basic income as a potential conflict strategy, the arguments from transhumanism and posthumanism, the possible influences of AI on religious activity, environmental conflicts and these are all of course actual or potentially contentious topics in themselves.
Do you have any practical advice for people who want to apply these ideas (e.g., three tips for the real world)?
Gain an adequate working knowledge of the AI processes involved in your specific industry or personal environment
Obtain a practical understanding of important conflict principles such as identity conflicts, polarization, timing and sequence, escalation and so on, and how to communicate more effectively in a complex conflict
The final chapter sets out ten strategies that can be utilized. The strategies deal with the impact of AI, how we are changed in that process, and how we can respond to these changes.
The book takes the view that we are facing rather unique conflict challenges, with far-reaching and potentially disastrous consequences, but that there is no reason for despair or hopelessness, and that there is much that we can still do to prepare ourselves.
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Catch up on the last one…
A look into the Netflix show “Live to 100” reveals a powerful predictor of living a long life: social connection. In last week’s newsletter, we discuss the power of social connection and break down the facets that nourish a person’s life.