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Does The Rise Of Artificial Intelligence Mean Doom For Mankind?

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By Parth Sharma:

downloadEvolution to us is as natural as breathing. To surpass limited natural capabilities has been our endeavor since time immemorial. Earlier it was with sticks and bones, an extension of the human hand; now it is with the help of microchips, transmitters, and processors. Earlier humans used to interact with technology as a separate entity i.e. outside the human body, but now changes are being realized within the individual—changing the meeting point of humans and technology.

Technology has already touched almost all spheres of our life. The onus has shifted from making our life more convenient to altering our physical reality and mental faculty. The desire to change ourselves is not a result of the 21st century. From the Greek mythological Icarus and Daedalus to Julian Huxley, FM-2030 or Zoltan Istvan (founder of the Transhumanist Party), the attempt to change oneself, rebuild and reconstruct the human physiology is innate. It is a futuristic—cyborg society that these people deem impending.

According to Prof Al. Rodhan, a senior fellow at the Oxford University and authority in the field of transhumanism, it is our innate tendency to enhance our physical and mental capabilities, to strive to do better than the previous. He terms it as “inevitable transhumanism” which is only accelerating with the help of technology.

These technologies have enhanced, as was expected, our living experience either by taking the load off our back (Human Universal Load Carrier), by giving us company (Siri, Cortana, Cleverbot), by increasing our perceptions (Google Glass and Oculus Rift) and even replacing natural organs with artificial ones. So deep was/is our belief in technology that people have cryogenically frozen themselves, in hopes of being brought to back to life when it is possible.

And surely the thought is not absurd as these machines, or should we say our scientists, are over-reachers and have outdone their own expectations time and again. With transporting 1024 bits in trucks to carrying 1024 gigabytes in our pockets, we sure have come a long way and with processor speed doubling every two years, we still have a long way to go.

The developers of the AlphaGo-playing program also predicted, in 2014, another good ten years when artificial intelligence will defeat human champion without a head start, and in 2016, Google Deepmind’s AlphaGo AI defeated Lee Sedol, the reigning world champion. Maybe the glitch in approximation thus lies in our inability to grasp the potential inherent in this technology.

That is probably why Elon Musk has stated that AI could be more dangerous than nukes and is “our biggest existential threat”. Stephen Hawking joins him by warning artificial intelligence could end humankind by “taking off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate.”

Transhumanism also comes with its less pessimistic supporters. Rollo Carpenter, the founder of Cleverbot, says, “We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it.”

The man vs. the machine debate has also brought in the new angle of post-humanism. While we explore the possibilities of a post-human future, critics such as Nick Land are of the opinion that rather than merely adding to the capabilities of human beings and acting as subordinate aides, artificial intelligence will take over the human race. These philosophers view work in this light as an approach to freeze the natural process of evolution. The debate, however, is inconclusive as we aren’t there yet.

Ideally, those affected will welcome the post-human life as it will elevate their standards of living; obliterate impossible paralysis, ailments and achieve things inconceivable as of today. But will that eventually lead to a robotized, sub-human existence is the question?

While Mythology, Sci-fi movies, and futuristic science have done their bit of entertaining us with this anti-hero, their existence in reality, does not seem to be that far behind. The usage of artificial intelligence to chalk out and decipher military strategies has been doing the rounds for some time now. However, despite being a success story, artificial intelligence and transhumanism have the potential to become a chimera that might devour its own creator.

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  1. Wayne Smith

    Interesting article. Shared with the Elon Musk facebook group

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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