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The strength and well being of a society is largely determined by the capacity of its members to work cooperatively together towards common goals (a common good). The most significant disruption of this strength is related to the integrity of human character with regard to how we relate to and work with one another. Socrates spent most of his life in the context of Athenian democracy. In Socrates' Athens, the role of the citizen was much more central to the functioning of Athenian democracy than it is in the democratic republic of the .. Male citizens were required to participate in their government through mandatory military service and through their participation (randomly chosen) on the council. The ability of all citizens to relate to one another with integrity was of the utmost importance because acquiring a high position in the government was possible for any male citizen who was at least 30 years old. When Socrates asked questions such as "What is justice?" or "What is virtue?", he was not interested in academic abstractions. Socrates' goal was to learn what it meant to live as a just and virtuous citizen. This was of the utmost importance to Socrates because he knew that the good character of individuals contributed directly to the survival and well being of his whole society. When the learning and thinking habits of the people become slack, that is, when the masses do not live examined lives, democracy becomes a fast road to tyranny. When the justice and skillful virtue of the human character of individual citizens is harmed, society is harmed. This reality underlays Socrates' comment in Plato's Republic (564a) that, "tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy...the greatest and most savage slavery out of the extreme of freedom."
While there is no clear road map for what lies ahead, in previous industrial revolutions we’ve seen society transition, not always smoothly, through a series of phases. First, we invent and design the technologies of transformation, which is where we are today. Second, we retrofit for the future. For example, drone pilots need training; old cars’ steering wheel might need to be removed as they are converted to autonomous vehicles. Third, we navigate distortion, dissonance, and dislocation. What is a radiologist’s job when the machines can read the X-ray better? What is the function of a lawyer when computers can detect patterns in millions of documents that no human can spot? But if we’ve incorporated the right values and design principles, and if we’ve prepared ourselves for the skills we as humans will need, humans and society can flourish.