Came across this the other day, something called the Off Manifesto, which appears to have come out of Spain.

The set up of the manifesto text itself is interesting enough, including text such as:

A substantial part of the digital technology and AI currently being promoted fosters an environment in which human beings are vulnerable, and their freedom and integrity are threatened. They run the risk of having their will conditioned, of not being able to make decisions autonomously and without external interference, of living under a state of surveillance in which intense control is exercised over their lives, or of finding it increasingly difficult to discern the truth.

I like that they seem to be focused at a systemic level over and above merely thinking about the present moral panic over AI. In my mind, AI is just the tip of the iceberg of a much more pervasive and pernicious set of problems posed by technology which we are very much all squeezed into now, from cradle to grave. (And even before the cradle for possibly everyone from this point forward, depressingly?)

So yes, let’s talk about the issues and problems around AI. But let’s not stop there. Let’s cut to the bone. Let’s hack at the root.

From the manifesto:

Given this context, we reject the view that we are facing an inexorable technological determinism of which we can only be spectators. On the contrary, we are convinced that we must act to agree on a framework that can be applied to reduce technological control over humans and in which technological development is at the service of humanity and not the other way around.

There is a lot I happen to agree with in this document, so I will only highlight a few, rather than delineate all of them. This next one from the observations section is a major plotline in my AI Lore books, incidentally:

  • A high concentration in the technology sector, meaning a very small number of companies have a disproportionate amount of power that allows them to intensify the influence they exert over the lives of citizens, conditioning their behaviour, beliefs, and decisions. These companies also hold a dominant position in relation to other companies, and sometimes to nation states themselves. 

A few of these also overlap with my own proposed AI Terms of Service document, like the below:

  • A right to disconnection that guarantees access to services – especially public services – in a non-digital capacity. […]
  • The reintroduction and revaluing of “off” functionality in the design of technological applications and devices, allowing users to consciously switch them on and off.

Again, there’s a lot more here. The document is far-reaching in its aims and proposals, and recognizes that gathering political will to act on such things could be difficult:

We are aware that this is a real challenge for political systems that tend to trust the individual to regulate issues considered private. We are, however, faced with technologies that have the collateral effect of overriding individual freedom and affecting what makes us human. We also understand that economic and geostrategic balances largely depend on technological competitiveness, which discourages any measure that could be perceived as a limitation to technological development. Therefore, this existential challenge demands unprecedented solutions, beyond soft recommendations.

Whatever the level of political action, a paradigm shift will only occur if there is a real mobilisation of citizens that exerts the necessary pressure to put this issue at the top of the political agenda. For the moment, public opinion is more sensitive to the short-term advantages of technological development than to its risks, which are often unknown…

Compare this, of course, to Marc Andreeson’s unhinged ranting against all such tom-foolery in search of the Holy Dollar:

We have enemies.

Our enemies are not bad people – but rather bad ideas.

Our present society has been subjected to a mass demoralization campaign for six decades – against technology and against life – under varying names like “existential risk”, “sustainability”, “ESG”, “Sustainable Development Goals”, “social responsibility”, “stakeholder capitalism”, “Precautionary Principle”, “trust and safety”, “tech ethics”, “risk management”, “de-growth”, “the limits of growth”.

I guess I can see, comparing these two texts, which side I’m on.

Incidentally, having read that only last night, Andreeson’s screed sounded suspiciously at points like the Futurist Manifesto, and evidently he names its author Marinetti in it as a “saint.” The same Marinetti who would later go on to write the original Fascist Manifesto:

Andreessen also calls out Filippo Tommaso Marinetti as one of his patron saints. Marinetti is not only the author of the technology- and destruction-worshipping Futurist Manifesto from 1909, but also one of the architects of Italian fascism. Marinetti co-authored the Fascist Manifesto in 1919 and founded a futurist political party that merged with Mussolini’s fascists.

So that’s weird. (More here on this topic as well.)

In short, it’s nice to see someone taking a not-Andreesen approach to all of this. There are things I’d probably change or emphasize differently in the Off Manifesto, but overall, I’m on.