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Trump begs a focus on our applications of intelligence

Let’s move for a moment beyond the evolving fascinations of the worlds of brain science and artificial intelligence, the talk of transhumanism, neural implants, machine learning, the future of robots and so on. Let’s rise above the quotidian world of Harold Macmillan’s events and John Lennon’s life and ask a fundamental question: “What are the implications for the IQ of our species if Donald Trump were to be elected President of the United States?”

Amidst the babblings of pop psychology, wishful thinking and vested venalities of so much of the Trump-inspired commentary, a recent Rolling Stone article by the ever-excellent Matt Taibbi is by some distance the most thoughtful and provoking piece to have come to my attention. It features something far deeper than the trademark splenetic wit, although there is plenty of that on offer too. Marco Rubio is characterised as a “talking haircut” and Ted Cruz absorbs a greater body blow than either Rubio or Trump himself, in a reference to his allegedly punchable face: “It looks like someone sewed pieces of a waterlogged Reagan mask together at gunpoint.”

More seriously, Taibbi prompts reflections on the limits of human cognition. It as if our visceral recollections of a past defined by fears and resentment were to combine with our addictions to satiety in the present to condemn our imaginings of the future to some perpetual NeverNeverLand. Our procrastinating natures condemn us to perpetual puntings of our problems down the road towards a horizon that can only bring oblivion.

In the context of the American election, the office of the presidency is subverted by an electoral process dominated by an unholy alliance of corrupt business, pliant media and a huckstered electorate. The grisly spectacle that results is a tantric grappling with what Taibbi characterises as autoerotic asphyxiation in its embrace of a candidate who has “found the flaw in the American Death Star. It doesn’t know how to turn the cameras off, even when it’s filming its own demise.”

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