As humans, we are intelligent, so much so that we have constructed empires, civilisations, sailed the seas and touched the heavens. Most of us have spent a significant portion of our lives accumulating knowledge and skills that give us the ability to be an operational component of the factory we call the world.
We use our knowledge as leverage over each other and roam the world wearing a crown of arrogance and entitlement. And within this illusion of self-importance, we have perhaps forgotten who we are.
When I studied Artificial Intelligence in university, I thought building advanced A.I. systems would be the future. I wanted to be part of that vision so much that I dedicated many years to learning about intelligence beyond our own. My thesis started with the intention of proving or disproving whether A.I. was bonafide intelligence, but I concluded that it didn’t matter.
We were trying to compare two paradoxical entities – human intelligence with artificial intelligence. A.I. was created applying the image of human intelligence except with much greater computing power. A.I. has the ability to formulate logical calculations at speeds far beyond human imagination. Its memory transcends all human capability, and from a processing perspective, human intelligence is rendered obsolete in contrast. Although A.I. was designed to simulate human intelligence, it evolved into so much more.
This might all sound a bit like Science Fiction, but Artificial Intelligence will inevitably take over everything. But perhaps not in the way Hollywood will have you believe it. For years, we have heard that the machines will outsmart us and then destroy us, but that is only partially true – the machines have already outsmarted us, but they will not destroy us. If anyone is going to destroy us, it will undoubtedly be us. A.I. was built to outsmart us – why would we build a system that was not as smart as us or even of equal intelligence?
As we mature, we start to think more profoundly about our existence; thus, many people, at some point, have an existential crisis. This is largely due to us being imprisoned in institutions for many years, consuming knowledge and data, yet learning very little about being.
The critical difference between Humans and A.I. is our understanding of being and meaning. When we lose our sense of being and meaning, we are obsolete; this can easily give rise to nihilism. When a lifetime of studying is thrashed by a device that fits in the palm of your hand and can be replicated in moments, you realise you have been outplayed. Your esteemed education starts to mean very little in comparison. Your crown of academic arrogance no longer holds the same value. So, what then? A lifetime wasted? A pointless existence? A blip in the universe, soon to be gone, soon to be forgotten?
I guess this then becomes a question of perspective.
I believe education has many forms, one of which is academic, and another is more philosophical. One gives you power, authority and skills – the other gives you meaning.
I knew a gentleman who loved football. He had loved it since he was a child and played all the time. He was selected to join a football club, and the coaches said that he had a promising career. This gave him all the encouragement he needed to pursue it as his dream. He became so obsessed that I can’t remember ever having a conversation that didn’t mention football at least once.
While practising for an important game, he injured his knee and was taken to hospital. The doctors told him that the damage was bad, he would need to have metal screws inserted into his knee and he would never be able to play football professionally.
This devasting news sent him spiralling into a state of deep depression. Football was all he knew – to fulfill his dreams of being a professional football player was what he had convinced himself gave him meaning. Without this, he felt lost. He felt meaningless and thus tried to commit suicide.
After getting help and learning more about life, he rediscovered himself and found new meaning. This helped him to live again and live a more fulfilling life – one that could not be ruined in an instance.
Our being, meaning, and purpose define us – without this, we are the same as Artificial Intelligence, only much dumber.