“With machine intelligence constantly developing, future man is sure to become superman”- Sarkissian
YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 4, ARMENPRESS. Man is returning to his roots, thousands of years back, to the prewriting times. Computer applications are hieroglyphs and modern children use them easily to communicate and find their games in their iPads. When given a paper book, they try to swipe the pages the same way they do it on the iPad screen and get angry seeing it doesn’t work, President Armen Sarkissian of Armenia says in an article published in The World magazine.
"Do we know at birth what kind of fate awaits us, especially nowadays, in the fast moving technology-related age of machine intelligence? However, deep inside, we do have something inherent, something “set by default.” That’s what determines our fates. In my life this “default setting” turned out to be my interest in the world’s vast variety.
Father was an architect. He passed away all too soon, having had no opportunity of passing on his love for his profession to me. Mom dreamt of a pianist’s future for me. Since childhood, music and mathematics have been “walking” side by side during my whole life. That’s the root of my love for science and wish to build harmonious relations between people and countries.
Absolute harmony is inherent in two realms only, music and mathematics, especially in the latter. When at school and university, I always felt “at home” with mathematics. I am still very proud to have been a Lenin Scholarship holder both as an undergraduate and a post-graduate student. I became interested in physics at a very early age. The USSR had an excellent classical education system and a number of really phenomenal scientific schools. As a theoretical physicist, I was supposed to have as much scientific knowledge as possible, just like a pianist is expected to be able to play all Beethoven’s, Mozart’s and Chopin’s sonatas by heart. When I came to work in Cambridge, I discovered that a Western scholar, unlike us, could be just a narrowly focused specialist. Later, I found the same thing at Harvard and Berkeley. Thanks to my profound training, I could conduct five or six different seminar courses. Back then, the Soviet school of theoretical physics was the best in the world.
Years later, at a big reception, attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair and the then UN Secretary-General, we talked about education. When asked for my opinion, I said the school system should, first and foremost, help children discover their talents. The Soviet school could discover athletes, musicians or mathematicians in its pupils. That’s what is lost and gone in many countries nowadays.
1991 saw the beginning of a new era: the Soviet Union, of whose unshakable stability I had been sure since childhood, collapsed. Armenia became an independent country. My second life began when the Armenian President suggested that I, as an English university professor, should establish an Armenian Embassy in the UK. A few months later, with the help of the Armenian diaspora, we opened our first embassy in the West. Then we set up an embassy in Paris. After that I was appointed Chief Ambassador to Europe and served in London, Luxemburg, Holland, the Vatican, the EU and the NATO Headquarters. My second life was bright and exciting but, unfortunately, my diplomatic work left no time for science.
In 1996 I became Armenian Prime Minister. Next year I had to resign due to a very serious health problem. It was the beginning of the third and hardest chapter of my lifestory: a two-years’ struggle lest it should become the last one. The truth is, sometimes we are not fully aware of how strong we really are while the awareness of our inner strength gives us more freedom. My third life gave me many new opportunities and a totally new zest for life.
In my fourth life I returned to scientific work, ran a business and once again served as a diplomat. At that time I managed to combine doing many things I really enjoyed.
My fifth life began after the inauguration in 2018. No doubt, presidency limits the freedom of doing what I want and acting as I please. At the same time, it provides an opportunity to devote myself to my country that has always been my Sweet Home. Armenia is truly unique. The influence of ancient civilizations can be still felt here but our country fits into the world of globalization and striking changes quite harmoniously. There is no contradiction here. Almost a three-thousand-years’ experience of surviving still runs in our veins while a harmonious blend of different cultures, a treasure of spiritual wealth, fills our souls. Many politicians say the 21st century may become the century of Armenia. This comes as no surprise. A great nation, once on the brink of extinction, we managed to survive, recover feet and rebuild our country. Thousands of years have passed in the struggle for Armenia’s self-identity in this world of many faces and languages. The reason why we have survived might as well be the fact that throughout our whole history we have been striving for more than just material prosperity. The Spirit, being beyond time and space, has always prevailed. That’s why Armenia is ancient yet young and modern at the same time.
Ours are uneasy but amazingly interesting times. So many things are changing so rapidly now. Still, there is a lot of uncertainty about politics, geopolitics and the constantly appearing new technologies. Machine intelligence is a most important one. This IT solution is able to detect its own errors, learn from them and improve itself. It’s not a virtual copy of man so we needn’t be apprehensive. My view is, in time, machine intelligence will help us enhance our own potentials tremendously and understand our inner selves.
Now humanity is changing faster than ever before. It’s especially obvious in the youngest generation just entering this world. They seem to come from a different planet. So do my three grandchildren. My first toy was a simple rattle-box while among the first things they took in their hands were iPhones and iPads. They learnt to use them at one or one and a half years of age. The toddlers of today learn to communicate without knowing the ABC, words or grammar. Man is returning to his roots, thousands of years back, to the prewriting times. Computer applications are hieroglyphs and modern children use them easily to communicate and find their games in their iPads. When given a paper book, they try to swipe the pages the same way they do it on the iPad screen and get angry seeing it doesn’t work. This generation considers the paper book to be a broken gadget. Someday we’ll understand whether it’s good or bad. Modern children are swimming in information flows, having no idea, which is very good, actually, what hunger for information of our young days was like. With machine intelligence constantly developing, future man is sure to become superman.
I am really happy to see another modern trend — combining intellectual and physical development. More and more young people choose a healthy lifestyle. When I was young it wasn’t so. Many young people smoked, drank alcohol and considered athletes to be mentally underdeveloped. Now, on the contrary, all smart graduates of prestigious universities do sports to improve themselves in every way.
The future is approaching at a breakneck speed but, no matter how successful the new technologies might be, no “God out of a machine” is likely to appear. I think so, because no system, even the most perfect one, will ever be able to unveil the ultimate and immaculate truth for us. So, what should we, always wishing to get answers to our eternal questions about the world we live in, our place in it and our inner selves, be doing in the meantime? In my opinion, we must love our country, the Sweet Home, where our roots and life-work are to be found because such things will never change.”