THE JOURNALIST WHO KNEW TOO MUCH – A Critique of Medial Reason

From the heaven of knowledge, a new creature of God has descended into the medial world. And his promise of salvation is quaero ergo tuum sit. Instead of cogito ergo sum—I think, therefore I am—it is now said, I search, therefore you are. So, praise the being. Praise ChatGPT, You.com, Google, and the Artificial Intelligences . . . 

But, what promises ultimate answers first raises questions: what do these code-based masterminds mean for the role of humans? How do we—as (still) thinking beings—deal with artificial intelligence? Has the entry of AI into everyday life on Earth turned a fatal information society into an omnipotent, fully democratized knowledge society overnight? Let us climb two steep theses at this point: In the next ten years, the marginal cost of intelligence and the marginal cost of energy will rapidly approach zero. 

If originally low-wage jobs are to be replaced by AI—enabling people to focus on the “essentials”—today we wake up surprised to realize that expertise seems to be on the verge of falling. Those “in the know” must fear for their jobs. Mankind is caught in the dichotomy between the experience of incomprehensible performance control and work facilitation, which is contrasted with the feeling of sheer existential uncertainty as to what is yet to come. In version 3.5, ChatGPT is not infallible, but the milestones of optimization amount to weeks or months rather than decades or even longer periods, especially since other intelligence offerings are rapidly following suit.

The usual world explainers are apparently increasingly on the defensive. Does the rise of artificial intelligence mean the demise of journalism and the media? Or does it open up a new opportunity for us to overcome the dopamine-driven media man and transition into a stage of development that promises a sensible use of technology and a society of the mind.  

THUS SPOKE THE MEDIA

The hopefuls of such an enlightenment were once Rudolf Augstein, Gerd Bucerius, and Henri Nannen—moguls by the grace of the occupying forces. Heroes of journalism. Like the heroes in Hollywood Westerns that flickered across the screens in their day, they embodied the ideal of freedom of opinion combined with informational self-determination. The fourth estate. When I took a look at the media world in my book The Infected Mind in 2020, I found that the media were not living up to their former enlightening role. 

Today, the fourth power is called artificial intelligence, or as everyone refers to it these days: Chat-GPT. The campfire has gone out. It used to be the place where people met for dialogue in order to come as close as possible to the truth through exchange and shared knowledge. A desire that even in the age of electronic media—perhaps reinforced by the fundamental will—remained at best an aspiration. Now it is replaced by an absolutization of omniscience, the opinion makers by opportunity-hungry pseudo-understanders, and the talking heads of knowledge transfer. But via this replacement, the corporate personal- and employer-branded influencers will themselves soon be replaced by personalized avatars. In the near future, ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com will be “animated,” populated by ChatGPT and their AI counterparts. From simulation software and “deep fakes” follows the experience of deep authenticity, indistinguishable from the “real”: real in substance, real in execution. 

Innovation-tuned, humanity races towards a final narcissistic mortification. The combination of mechanics and robotics like those of Boston Dynamics, the rapid advances in biotechnology, quantum technology, genome editing, and nanotechnology are the drivers. The result? A technological singularity and proof that we are not the created but the creators. Not God the Almighty but Man the Mighty, capable of building anything he can imagine. Bliss, godliness, and immortality from the machine. And from the machine: deus ex machina because man now becomes the creator who excuses himself from creating. 

End-time scenarios of a Homo obsoletus approach in the hourly cycle—as do shimmering sci-fi depictions. It isn’t yet clear whether a dystopia or utopia awaits our species. A natural development of the artificial, with which it is necessary to deal, and from which man must find himself anew is certain. But who will show whom him the way?

MEDIA FOR ALL AND NONE

What happens when a world is created in which technology has never made it so easy to deal with different positions, perspectives, and opinions . . . and yet we don’t? Increasing social differentiation, leading to “singularization” and producing an unprecedented increase in the complexity of society, leads to a cacophony in which social dialogue gives way to the mission (un)consciousness of each individual. A fatal information society suffocates the meaningful campfire and becomes an absolute knowledge society.

If we follow this trend, we realize that Kant’s distinction between “pure” and “sensitive” reason has been negated by technological development. What remains is not sensation and the perception of the world through our senses but digital expression. And our ability to abstract is followed by absolute knowledge. Experiencing without experience. Recognizing without cognition. 

Today, we no longer listen. We don’t want to understand; we want to participate. At least this seems to be a common denominator of the western affluent societies these days: Nobody wants to be a receiver; everybody wants to send. We have created a media world for all and none. After the mass media, the mass becomes a medium. But when everyone is on stage, the auditorium is empty. Captivity in one’s own freedom is created.

It can be seen that the ideal of the indispensability of free, professional media for democratic societies has been attacked. The technological democratization of knowledge is subject to economization—and human drives. On the one hand, we’re not only amusing ourselves to death but much worse: we’re dealing with full-blown anesthesia and anesthetization. The addiction to our daily dose of dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. The addiction to feeling good without being bothered to do good.  

Happiness replaces reflection, undermining the original role of media and all journalism. Social media communication is the fuel of the totality of advertising. Sex and pornography. The TikTok and Instagram algorithms fuel the same topics, and at streaming providers like Netflix & Co. the shows are called Naked, FBoy Island, How to Sell Drugs Online, Too Hot to Handle, and Ex on the Beach

From the media makers, the current developments require tolerance of ambiguity+. They can’t do one thing and not do another—explain worlds and court likes. A lowly peasant meets Queen Capitalism. Moreover, rapid developments show that it is becoming more difficult to “write what is” (Augstein). Media and media makers are challenged to prepare for the unknown. Because it is not at all certain that journalists will be needed in the future. AI not only analyzes; it also writes the texts.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World today beats the dystopian thoughts of Orwell’s 1984 hands down. Autonomy, maturity, and history are not taken away from us by Big Brother. The problem is not that books will be banned from us, but that no one will read them anymore. ChatGPT teaches us to love our technological inferiority—and thus oppression. It gives us access to omniscience, which can be used to pimp the personal brand. The human interface becomes a capitalized and compliant knowledge broker with the fatal consequence of the decline of our ability to think. Already today, it is not the answers that are the problem but rather the human ability to ask questions. 

THE OVERCOME MEDIA MAN

Is a halcyon tone of communication emerging? Have we arrived at the possible overcoming of the intermediate stage of being human that Nietzsche once described? Can we still shape our own destiny and continue to develop? Does the chance lie in overcoming man now with technology? Nietzsche and Kant would certainly look at “our world” quite differently today. So, maybe the goal isn’t overcoming self-determination but facilitating co-determination. Perhaps ever-recurring striving toward a society of understanding is our infinite path. Nietzsche wrote A Book for All and None because he feared “no one would understand him,” and perhaps this is where the new role of the media lies. Is the bridging function of technology the opportunity that must now be seized? 

The static becomes something dynamic. If the role was once the transmission of knowledge, today it could be the pursuit of better explanations. The role of the modern journalist thus belongs to the never-ending escape from the static. The absolute balance and the attainment of the answer is followed by the annihilation of the absolute. And so, in the Nietzschean sense, strength must be developed from the bondage of consumption and melancholy. Confidence in oneself is followed by the assumption of responsibility for decisions and opinions—opinion obliges—from which progress can be achieved through friction in relation to others. 

The superhuman becomes the fellow human. Reason becomes the striving for better explanations—the society of understanding. In the future, the media will no longer imply what we think we know because artificial intelligences will become incorruptible sources of knowledge. Sources, however, only lead to knowledge through thinking itself, and the media point the way there. 

Thus, something dynamic may emerge, from which, in turn, a collective creative force of progress could be seen to follow. 

What does this mean now? The role of journalism in the future will not be that of pastoral care (as an antidote to the present). Instead, a new opportunity is currently emerging in the shaping of the fellow human being, from which new business models can (presumably) be developed.

Because one thing is clear: It is completely unclear where the journey is going. We read about short-term reactive opportunities every day. Speed is everything. But if we want to think in the medium and long term about what the media world of tomorrow might look like or how the role of journalism is to be understood, we have to take a fundamental look. In the technological world of ChatGPT, AI & Co., meaning, opinions, and opinion makers aren’t sought. Life is meaning, from which understanding and progress can emerge. Of that I am convinced. 

And exactly from this infinite thought of progress, the striving for better problems, the media of tomorrow can be found. From Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and a Kantian clear edge, a new power can be found. A controlled power that cannot be corrupted by validation. The answer as to how such a thing could be mapped in a fully economized society is found in the human mind. 

The role of media and journalism in the future will be to accept that it’s not about taming technology and imparting knowledge but understanding it. If artificial intelligence does everything better than humans, the issue for humans is learning how to learn. Whatever that is enables us to separate ourselves from absolutes. So, the striving is not homeostasis but homeodynamics, from which it is now necessary to find economic models. 

I teach you to learn. This is the short-term opportunity and answer for the media world in dealing with ChatGPT and artificial intelligence. And in the fundamental change of the media world, the economic potential to teach humans how to think is currently emerging. 

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