Technology vs Consequences — a modern Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel?

Original article was published by Amanda Nasser on Artificial Intelligence on Medium


Technology vs Consequences — a modern Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel?

In this article, I want to connect a very reflective and inspiring picture that was part of the Renaissance, painted in the year 1563 by Pieter Bruegel and which is called the Tower of Babel.

Bruegel, one of the most important Renaissance painters, lived in Antwerp during a time when the city became increasingly wealthy, and commerce was on the rise as a port city.

The original story is biblical, part of the book of Genesis, and has human presumption as a background. The story takes place in Babel and the king of the time, Nimrod, knew as a tyrant king. According to the historian Josefo in Jewish Antiquities, I, 114, 115 (iv, 2, 3), Nimrod was moving people away from God and bringing them closer to his government to make citizens increasingly dependent on his power. According to the historian, he decided to build a tower that would be the tallest ever seen and that if another flood came, the waters did not reach it. He had the goal of reaching the skies. For this reason, according to the account, God caused people to spend the day at night speaking in several languages.

Let’s get to the point. This painting is curious and has a religious character. Within the framework, it refers to a political scenario. Bruegel wanted to demonstrate what man can do to himself when he is blinded by presumption. Bruegel paints an alert.

Photo by https://www.bruegel2018.at/en/the-tower-of-babel/

In the painting, we can analyze three visions, the first in the lower-left corner where the king passed with all the pose of a sovereign and was adored by servants who are working, that is, who serves is who kneels. Another view that viewers have is that the tower is already falling, building and being destroyed, hanging to the left where the city is, showing that when it falls, it will destroy the city. Another view is that of the ships, which appear small, but the tower is on a large scale that seems to be small.

The tower of Babel was the leading technology it had at the time. The expectation was huge and we know that did not work. The undertaking was frustrated and in the painting, we as spectators see that it no longer worked.

But what is the similarity with the current world?

We dream of technology and man has managed to achieve magnificent things. But what is the impact of this? Are you personally prepared for the consequences of this?

It is not new how our data has been used. But do we know the impact on our lives that this has? We recently saw that data usage contributed to the election of one of the largest nations. Yes, I speak of the case of Cambridge Analytic.

It is not uncommon to see tests on the internet saying: See which character you are on the show Friends! One of these days I saw one that said: What cake would you be? Is this serious? Would anyone like to be a cake?

Perhaps for you who are reading, this doesn’t make any sense. But for many, this does and the use of responses from hundreds and thousands of people in tests like these is enough to influence us psychologically for a greater purpose.

We crave technology and dream about it. Technology has arrived, but can we end up like the city of Babel, divided, segregated, without any kind of empathy? Just as the tower was bigger than the inhabitants, the use of technology for evil is greater than we are.

So you can ask me: What is the solution? I don’t know. I am like those workers in the city of Babel, contributing to the construction, not being part of the Monarchy, and admiring something that I would never do alone. Like you, I have a small part of the responsibility. I think we already know who has most of the responsibility, don’t we?