Kennedy cleared his throat and cast a measured gaze across the room.
“If I could encapsulate the mood of our world, it would be in two words: uncertainty and hope.
“Two opposing moods, for sure, but relevant to each of us and our constituents.
“What breeds the uncertainty is the fog of tomorrow’s unknown. We are all familiar with the adage penned by Robert Burns, ‘the best-laid plans of mice and men,’ etc. Try as we might, we have yet to develop a crystal ball, and the most we can be sure of is that the future offers no guarantees.
“Despite the promises of politicians”—Kennedy traded smiles with the senators—“and bureaucrats, all well-meaning for sure, and industrialists, plus bankers, our world still stumbles along, hobbled by environmental challenges, pollution, waste, overpopulation, and the demons of violence and corruption. As a species, as soon as we solve one problem, we create two more.”
He paused for laughs.
“Ever more powerful drugs created to accelerate healing and ease pain have brought about waves of addiction. Automation has swept away the drudgery of menial work, increased the efficiency of the workplace many times over, but in its wake has left millions unemployed. A world of have-nots breeds resentment and despair that do no one any good. People without meaningful livelihood have no stake in their communities, and to draw upon another quote: ‘Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.’
“To be sure, at times we seem to grope through a world of shadows. But take heart in this, the brightest of lights casts the darkest shadows.
“Now on to hope. What shines the brightest are the opportunities we can leverage through our technology. Two hundred years ago, we used steam power to remake our world. Then it was electricity, chemistry, and the internal combustion engine. After that, computers and a greater understanding of the symbiotic relationship between society and artificial intelligence and advanced technology.
“But one major challenge is the perception that the compensations of this new society are not fairly distributed. What we are dealing with is a matter of perception, which is no trivial matter. People who perceive themselves as happy feel connected, empowered, and validated. Yet other individuals, in identical circumstances, if perceiving themselves to be unhappy and frustrated, are prone to all kinds of mischief and fertile ideas that cultivate contrary behavior.
“That bright light I just mentioned is the yin and yang of AI and AT, that is, artificial intelligence and advanced technology. You in the media and those of us in my industry, together we must aim to reeducate the masses through electronics—the AI part, and through drugs—the AT part. It’s an approach that will leave little to chance. As you in the media improve our messaging, we’ll see that our light will burn brighter even as the shadows shrink away. You here tonight are the champions of this better alternative world, which through your efforts will be made more efficient, peaceful, productive, and profitable.”
Kennedy paused for a drink of water, then continued, “The naysayers will protest, asking, ‘What about choice? What about the free will of the individual?’
“To that we say, people will have a choice. They will be free to choose what we offer. Our notions of personal liberty are holdovers from the time when the state and industry were extraordinarily flawed institutions. Thanks to modern media, working with AI and AT, we can coordinate government and commerce into one seamless enterprise, providing an efficiency far above what our forbearers would’ve dreamed possible. How can anyone question the wisdom of oversight that is plugged into a global network of information that sees all, knows all? Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure are quaint holdovers that mean nothing today when we can control and monitor anything and everything. Clinging to the notions of liberty is as outdated as insisting the world is flat. We must dedicate ourselves to removing the last impediments to progress. We, and you in the media, know what’s best. Our message to the world is: Trust us with your security. Trust us with your livelihood. Trust us with your future.”
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