mano humana arriba de una bola y una robótica abajo

March 03, 2023

Will we be able to live with new forms of intelligence without forsaking our own?

Humans in the 21st century are used to living among cars. From an early age we know that the pavement is for pedestrians and roads are for faster vehicles. We understand traffic lights and how to interpret their range of colours. We identify the white lines on the road and their meaning.

Our ancestors of a century ago saw motor vehicles as a real danger and an intrusion on their constitutional rights. In fact, they had to learn how to coexist with these machines for their own safety.

In other words, people, in general, often express their fears and apprehensions that certain technological advances may pose a threat to humanity. The most recent case is Artificial Intelligence. And although it is true that these technologies can be so disruptive that they cause alterations in the economic and social ecosystem, humanity itself, which is responsible for the development of these advances, ends up imposing limits and boundaries so that the use of these advances is always for the benefit of the majority and does not pose a danger.

And, as with the advent of robots and automation, some jobs are seeing people be replaced by machines, but the truth is that technology also has the power to create many other new jobs.

This is due to the fact that AI and humans do not have the same qualities and capabilities. AI-based machines are fast, more accurate and rational, but they are not intuitive, emotional or culturally sensitive. And it is precisely these capabilities that we humans possess and that make us effective.

Why we reject technology

Calestous Juma, Director of Science, Technology and Globalisation at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, affirms in his book "Innovation and Its Issues: Why People Resist New Technologies", that society tends to reject new technologies when they replace, instead of increasing, our humanity.

Meanwhile, we embrace and enthusiastically adopt these advances when they support our desire for inclusion, purpose, challenge, meaning and alignment with nature. We do it even when they are difficult to handle, expensive, slow to use and constantly malfunction.

For example, the first few days of tractor use in the United States were not the sign of agricultural efficiency. The tractors offered few advantages over horses. Some detractors argued that their value could improve marginally if they could reproduce like horses.

Living with new intelligence

Something similar is happening at this time with Artificial Intelligence, which is proving to be very useful and profitable for many things. Since it is still in the development phase and humans are still getting used to its power and possibilities, there are many fears surrounding it. The more powerful AI becomes and the more things we ask it to do for us, the more important it will be to specify its objectives with the utmost care.

We have to make sure that the powerful AI machines are "friendly to humans", i.e., that their objectives are reliably consistent with our own values. However, this is no easy task, since ethics, law and values are not the same in all countries or cultures. The aim of development and legislation is to prevent the powerful new intelligence from amplifying the dark sides of our own nature.

New ways of living together

Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and author of "Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future", argues that AI and related technologies have already achieved superhuman performance in many areas.

In his view, we are more likely to use this power to make the world a better place. For example, we can virtually eliminate global poverty, massively reduce disease and provide better education to almost everyone on the planet. Conversely, he claims that AI and Machine Learning can be used to concentrate more and more wealth and power, leaving many people behind, and to create even more horrible weapons.

Therefore, in his view, the right question we need to ask ourselves is not "What will happen?", but "What will we decide to do?". This approach must give us a response that will lead us to work and fight to bring technology to the height of our values.

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