Industry Update
Opinion Article20 January 2021

Toward a post-human industry

By Simone Puorto, Founder | CEO | Futurist

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Fifteen years ago, the book "The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology" by futurist Ray Kurzweil was published. It addressed topics such as biology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and transhumanism.

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The term "singularity" was coined in the 1980s, and many different definitions have been given since then. The one commonly accepted is by the writer Vernor Vinge: "Within 30 years," Vinge predicted, "we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence, a time when our models will have to be discarded, and a new reality will reign."

This historical moment is known as singularity, and today its manifestations can be observed both in everyday objects (such as a smartphone or a washing machine) and in more metaphysical and controversial subjects, such as cyborg rights. For instance, biohacking, once labeled as a cyberpunk extravagance, has now become an accepted, and often even encouraged, practice among technology company executives around the world.

The future is irreversible, and considering it as utopian or dystopian depends totally on us, but human feelings towards the singularity change considerably based on its practical applications.

In the medical field, it helps doctors diagnose diseases with greater precision and increases accuracy during the most delicate surgical procedures. Techniques such as IVF and CRISPR gene editing not only have the potential to prevent genetically heritable conditions but to eradicate them completely.

Any moral or religious implication should vanish in the face of the possibility of preventing type 1 diabetes, cancer, or HIV and it is not so far-fetched to think that, in a few years, the humans who will decide to conceive through canonical sex, by exposing their children to all the risks of randomness, will be stigmatized as anti-vax and flat-earthers are today.

What does it mean for hospitality?

However, in hospitality, even the slightest allusion to singularity is perceived as heresy. It is my opinion that an almost atavistic prejudice causes this sentiment that human beings have towards AI.

The most famous test to evaluate the intelligence of a machine, the Turing Test, is, paradoxically, anthropocentric. According to that test, it can be determined whether or not a machine is a machine only by comparing it directly with a human being, who remains the final term of comparison.

However, on closer inspection, the methodological approach of the test is, at least, fallacious: machine comes from the Greek mechané, translatable as artifice or deception. The machine is, therefore, a device that man uses to deceive nature. Semantically speaking, when Kant talks of man as a "natural machine," he is creating an oxymoron, as much as Turing does with his famous test, which places humans and robots on two different and irreconcilable levels.

This double standard, together with the anthropocentric preconception, are the main motivations that led me to write this article, with the hope of helping the reader to understand better and not fear these technological advances, which are foundations of a new post-human industry thanks to which hoteliers, finally freed from complex and non-scalable tasks, will be able to return to the essence of their profession: taking care of their guests.

In the essay, "The Obsolescence of Man," the philosopher Günther Anders speaks of a feeling typical of our (post) modern society, which he calls the Promethean shame, referring to the Hellenic myth. For Anders, this shame exists because man is systematically overcome by his inventions, in an asynchronous relationship with the technology of which he is the creator.

However, Prometheus does not create fire. He simply steals it from the gods and teaches men how to light it. Man is both natural and supernatural: natural because he works within the existing world and supernatural because he can use that world for his purposes. It is instrumental to our reasoning to remember how the mass always adopts every technology that simplifies the life of human beings. It is simple (techno) Darwinism.

"Man is something that must be overcome," wrote the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche in his radical manifesto, Also Sprach Zarathustra: "a rope between the animal and the overman." For years, historians have tried to interpret these words, misunderstanding them (or, even worse, exploiting them). What if the "rope" was never between animal and man, but rather, between animal and artificial beings?

Technology has finally provided us with the potential to solve humanity's most significant dilemmas and improve our delicate condition. The rope to the overman is today more robust than ever, but the goal is not racial, but technological. The overman will not have blonde hair and blue eyes, rather silicon chips and maximum computational power.

This is the magnitude of the change we are privileged to witness today. Do we have the arrogance to believe that it will not have an impact on travel?

Whether we like it or not, the singularity is near, in our industry as well.

Simone Puorto

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