Updated: Mar 18, 2022
The Department of Communication and Media Studies at Corvinus University of Budapest organized a national English language competition for university students to write essay-style blog posts. The winning papers answer the question: What do university students who study in Hungary think about the effects of technology and media on our daily lives? With pleasure, we present you the third-prize winning work by Marine Berger*.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a big field, as terrifying as it is intriguing. We're not talking about cyborgs and super-powered robots that are going to wipe out the human race here, but rather about small, everyday advances that infiltrate our daily lives without us even realizing it. Technological change does not hit us in the face, it is much more stealthy, so it escapes our awareness and does not provoke reaction, opposition or revolt. Indeed, AI is evolving at an insane speed, a speed we are not sure we can control, that is what makes it so terrifying. But its potential is so monumental, so huge and utopian in contributing to a better life and helping people make easier choices, that is what makes it so intriguing.
Our mind has a rational side, I have no secrets here. The first to formulate a series of laws in this regard was none other than Aristotle with those famous syllogisms that we all studied in philosophy class during our studies. Although it is one thing to say that our mind is Cartesian, it is quite another to reduce it solely to that. Many philosophers, such as R. Descartes, agree that a part of the human mind (or soul, or spirit, or whatever) is outside nature, exempt from physical laws. We therefore speak of dualism: on the one hand the purely material and mechanical body of the animal and on the other the soul, consciousness, speech, specific to humans.
That is the exact reason why AI is not without limits as many tend to believe. It is true that technology can reach great heights and offer breathtaking capabilities, but it is impossible for it to see the world as humans can appreciate it, with all its associated charm and its unrivalled components. We can therefore safely say that AI will never equal ours. However, we are not immune to some potentially dangerous drifts for our society or our future, but that is another story (which I will not go into here).
As intelligent as we can make them, machines are sorely lacking in common sense. The AI is able to recognize a child or a dog in a picture, but it is impossible for it to know whether the figure in question is real or is a statue, for example, because it basically has no idea what a child or a dog is, what it represents. AI is still just a program, which only has the knowledge it has been given while humans know how to process the information they receive, they are able to criticize and judge it.
That lack of common sense leads us to the next main difference: the lack of understanding of the context. The AI doesn't understand what it is doing, it just does it. If we encode the wrong data into the AI, intentionally or unintentionally, it will only give biased information because it does not understand what it is doing. Without human interpretation and context, all this hard work loses its meaning.
AI is also hungry for data, as it is unable to reason without it. Improvising is not in his vocabulary. It does not know how to react to an unexpected change. Until it has been explicitly told how to react to a situation, AI does not know how to deal with it, and in a world full of uncertainties like ours, flexibility is paramount. Humans, on the other hand, have evolved over the years thanks to their ability to improvise.
THE NEW SMART
Intuition is an additional difference between humans and AI, impossible to imitate. We know how long it will take us to cross a pedestrian crossing or we know how hard we have to push a switch to turn a light on or off, but we do it without even thinking about it, it seems obvious to us. We would not even be able to calculate it mathematically (at least most of us). That is what is called intuitive physics, a human skill which is the consequence of evolutionary pressures to successfully navigate the physical environment that a machine is unable to replicate.
« In an age of smart machines, our old definition of what makes a person smart doesn’t make sense. What is needed is a new definition of being smart, one that promotes higher levels of human thinking and emotional engagement. The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning. »
– Ed Hess, Professor of Strategy, UVA Darden School of Business, 2017
Indeed, intelligence cannot be reduced to a basic definition that only focuses on cognitive abilities anymore. It is a much more complex concept that can be explained by Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, which states that there are 8 different types of intelligences (namely : linguistic, logical/mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist). In a future where AI will potentially steal our jobs, the capabilities and skills that should be highlighted are those that are strictly human such as creativity, innovation, empathy, caring or imagination.
The human being is much more sophisticated than a being with knowledge and logic. We are afraid, angry, even sometimes sad. We feel things, we experience them, that is what makes us the richness of what we are. New concepts such as emotional intelligence emerged in 1990 thanks to J. D. Mayer and P. Salovey. Emotional intelligence is ‘a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one's own and others' emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one's thinking and actions’ they said. Yes, we are feeling life, and this is something that AI would be unable to imitate.
It is for all these reasons that I think AI should be less terrifying for the average person. It is, of course, a leap in the dark regarding the possible abuses it can bring, but at least we know that it can never match the richness and beauty of what we are. We are not just flesh and bone, we are more than that. Unfortunately, this short reflection does not answer the question of whether we should continue to develop AI, yes or no, at the risk of our potential downfall, but at least it opens up the debate.
*Marine Berger - Third Place Corvinus Blog Post Competition
My name is Marine Berger, I am 21 years old, I come from Belgium and I am studying communication at IHECS in Brussels where I intend to pursue a master in journalism. I studied at Corvinus University of Budapest from September 2021 to January 2022 as part of an Erasmus programme. I have always enjoyed writing, whether articles, fiction or otherwise and I am very grateful to see that my work is appreciated. I hope to continue on this path and keep doing what I love for the future.
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Hess, E. (2017, June 19). In the AI Age, “Being Smart” Will Mean Something Completely Different. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://hbr.org/2017/06/in-the-ai-age-being-smart-will-mean-something-completely-different
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