The Cultural Silk Road

Albeit most modern sciences and techniques (mathematics, glass production, automata, paper, paper-money, algebra, printing, gunpowder, firearms…), have ancient Asiatic roots, the development of complicated machines apt to substitute men’s work, such as steam engines, Jacquard looms, dynamos and turbines, motor vehicles, writing and computing machines, electric and nuclear energies, mass media, informatics, are connected in some way to the era  of European hegemony, such as Western exploration, colonialism and neo-colonialism, and, as it has been investigated by many contemporary authors, bear the imprinting of certain characteristics of Western cultures, such as Indo-European language logics and religious messianism. For these reasons, notwithstanding  many efforts made to challenge some of these new developments, such as the ones of  Huxley, McLuhan and Hawking, the mainstream Western thought has not expressed  valuable proposals on how to govern the rise of Intelligent Machines.

Contrary to what is happening in the West, all countries of the BRICS are going, since many decades, in the direction of re-evaluating their traditional cultures, such as Sinic and Indic philosophies, Islam and Eastern Christianity, which are less oriented towards rationalism and messianism. As a consequence, even if  BRICS are now in the forefront of the development of new technologies, we may expect that they will introduce balances to a strict mechanical logic, apt to oppose the risks of the machines overcoming men, expressed still recently by scientists and entrepreneurs such as Hawking and Musk. Let’s think, for instance, of the idea of a “fuzzy” logic, of the Azeri mathematician Lotfi Zadeh, already utilised in the past by Indian and Chinese scientists for predicting rainfalls. Recently, President Putin has spoken about the need to “bridle” Artificial Intelligence and to avoid a world monopoly in this area, and has expressed his preparedness to share with other world powers Russia’ achievements in this field. The fact itself that the final document of the Xiamen Summit had included a series of themes concerning cooperation in the control of several types of abuse of new technologies is evidence of a cultural preparedness, by participating countries, to meet this type of challenge.

Looking at it from with a positive point of view, culture is becoming a social need everywhere, also for balancing the de-personalizing effects of economy and technology. The countries alongside the land and maritime Silk Roads include almost all the most important sources of culture during history (the “Haft Kesvar”-“Seven Climates”-of Persian tradition) . Their histories had borne the risk to be forgotten, inter alia with the reduction of the role of their classical languages, the neglect of care for archaeological sites and museums, the prevalence of market-oriented publishing trends, fanatics’ destruction of ancient treasures, the ignorance of the history of Asian cultures.

Among other things, the Silk Road Initiative should provide finance for publishing, media, academies, universities, schools, archaeology and travel devoted to comparative culture (philology, philosophy, religions, history, literatures, music, arts, cinema, architecture…): the relationships among ancient languages and peoples, didactic methods, comparative cultural history,…

A cultural revival of the Eurasian Continent would contribute to salvage mankind from nihilism and mechanisation, and to the birth of a vibrant cultural industry in a time when simpler jobs are destroyed by technological unemployment.

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