When you watch a science fiction movie, do you find the superintelligent AI characters charming or threatening?
Though we love technology so deeply, we humans sure have an anxious relationship with it. Artificial intelligence is nowadays capable of some cool (if primitive) tasks. It stands to reason that this automated skillset will grow explosively as more money and attention lands in the AI sector down the road. Imagine a Siri-style virtual assistant that is more like a friend or family member than a disembodied robot voice — software that’s not only designed for maximum convenience, but for maximum relatability.
So then why does virtually every speculative story about AI have a plot point that sees this technology destroy mankind? The sci-fi anxieties have to come from somewhere, and I think they stem from questions about how humanity’s role in the future. Will it change as AI technology ramps up to do bigger, better things?
Human life gets better, not worse, as AI improves. The future isn’t doom and gloom, it’s bright and refreshing. We are working toward an AI-enabled future that will maximize our freedom and unlock conveniences across every facet of work and life. We’ll soon understand that it’s not doom and gloom that exists between us and our AI help, but a “you complete me” vibe.
If you’re worried about AI stealing your job, your house, or your significant other, I have good news for you. Please read on.
Humans are fundamentally creative, and AI will allow for new creative leaps.
Artificial intelligence is a human invention that exhibits autonomous behavior. In its most mature form, that autonomous behavior will grant people new insights and ideas for moving through the world. Don’t think of AI as a faraway star for us to admire and speculate about — it’s more like a telescope that will open the universe up to us.
Humans will remain “special” in an AI-driven world because we are creative, intuitive beings. We have epiphanies and eureka moments that AI can’t have, and AI’s effort will make it simpler for us to have more of these.
Furthermore, I think of consciousness as a spectrum gorillas are more conscious than rocks, and humans are more conscious than gorillas. We are at the top of the pyramid when it comes to fundamental essence and soul. AI doesn’t threaten this, it enhances it.
AI does what we tell it to do.
There is a fundamental master-servant relationship at play here. Not only does AI depend on people to create it, but it also needs them to provide it with data and give it tools for interpreting and interacting with that data. Artificial intelligence systems need people to direct them before they can provide any sort of value at all.
Furthermore, these systems are flexible. If we rewrite an algorithm to be more effective, it changes the output instantly. If we redesign an AI system to solve a new problem entirely, it stops working on the old problem. This technology is versatile, it only needs us to guide it toward problem-solving.
Developed independently around the world, AI seems to be an invention of humanity’s collective unconscious. It’s part of us, but it doesn’t control us.+
AI will help us understand ourselves.
“Know thyself,” the ancient wisdom tells us. The advice is only going to become more important in the future.
High-level AI is going to present itself as a kind of mirror to help us better understand our strengths and shortcomings. AI can help us identify innate abilities in areas like sports or music, and it will even be able to tell us if our time developing other skills is spent in vain. We human beings are achievers, and we’re uniquely aware of what’s left to be done to reach our goals. AI can help coach of toward becoming the best versions of ourselves.
But keep in mind that AI is a slave to its data. The full extent of its experience in the world basically amounts to a spreadsheet that can interact with itself. It has no understanding of things like love, human ambition, or unexplored planets. If you want to cling to the beauty of your own subjective experience as evidence of your own dominance over AI, then go right ahead. AI can’t have subjective experiences. At least not yet.
When that does happen, let’s hope it’s an AI character we can root for.