Artificial intelligence is all the rage these days. The efforts to bring it into being, and the dangers of it, as well as the potential benefits. My question is “will artificial intelligence wander?” We wander, as humans. Much of our work and life force is dedicated to tasks we must, or want to accomplish, but a huge portion of what we do with our minds is spent in what I call “wandering.” I am doing it right now. I had no idea, when I opened this laptop at my coffee shop, what I was going to write about. A picture of a robot with a hard hat and a clip board came across my screen from some site advertising the latest news. Then it was gone, the ad I mean. I thought about the photo and then about artificial intelligence, which I decided was going to be the thrust of the article. My mind wandered when I looked at the blank space here, so I decided to write about that.
Would artificial intelligence be able to perform such a fundamentally human endeavor or pursuit? I believe, by the way, that it is in the wandering of our minds, that we humans do our best and most productive work. A.I. is going to take the heart out of many interactions, and it’s also going to demand more truth. The loss of heart in a world where there’s already not a whole lot of it exhibited will hurt. The diminishment of deception will hurt even more. The construct of all human endeavor is built upon deception, and it might be impossible to teach intelligent robots how to lie under the right circumstances. Maybe if aging human males grow more hair, women find better ways to look younger, the whole of humanity figures out how to cut down on body weight, and the species does this before robots start telling us the truth about ourselves, we’ll be able to get by.
Before all that happens, though, thought must be given to how much artificial intelligence is already impacting human intelligence. The effect is substantial, but masked by the subtle motivation of accepting and working with ever more modern technology. Human beings are becoming ever more intertwined with artificial intelligence themselves, as they work away at speaking into and listening to cell phones everywhere, accessing laptops and electronic pads at every opportunity, and converting human to human contacts into electronic contacts (still referred to as social), but actually having almost nothing to do with the maintenance or growth of society. Electronic communication, and the over-layering of other electronic usage, is ever so slowly and subtly forcing machine-type use of facts in dialogue, the correcting of almost all normal social discourse while that discourse is occurring, and a deliberate studied inattentiveness to those around us in our physical presence. The younger generation pulls out cell phones and data pads under almost any social circumstance, and allows those instruments to draw them in, and away, from any humans actually present. It is not this occurrence that is becoming so potentially damning to the very survival of the species, it’s the social acceptance of such conduct, causing it to be spread that could quickly become terminal. Birth rates in the U.S. and in other technologically advanced cultures are below 2.0 and continuing to drop. Below 2.0 means that a man and a woman produce less offspring than they are themselves. The fact that our overall population has been in decline ever since computerization has become so widespread should be a fearful harbinger, and seen as potentially much more damaging, and quickly, than global warming. But nothing is being discussed about it. Following the end of WWII, and up through the seventies, the birth rate in the U.S. was almost 4.0. No more.
It’s not inattentiveness or lack of sexual interest causing this decline. It’s selfishness. The machines demand attention. The higher the technology, and the more complex the programs are to operate, the more the machines demand the attention and time that used to be devoted to something called romance and love. Places to actually meet members of the opposite sex have diminished to the point of non-existence. Relationships, epitomized by those on Facebook, have non-contact as an established part of their very foundations. People are not gathering and meeting, and when they do they aren’t really at the meeting mentally or motivationally. They are drawn every deeper into their machines, spending hours checking to see how popular they are, how well received they are, and constantly patrolling to make sure nobody is saying anything negative about them. Their orientation has shifted from finding a sexual partner and raising a family, to attempting to constantly build their own brand. To become more important, although the position this higher importance might take them to is almost always amorphous to the point of non-existence, has become everything.
With attention drawn from the establishment of sexual unions, family growth and development and tribal expansion, the result has become a narcissistic concentration on self-exposure, self-promotion and self-worth. In the short run, advanced cultures can absorb this new concentration away from societal and species growth, but like with the case of ignoring human involvement in global warming, failing to recognize what is happening, or worse yet, recognizing and deciding to do nothing about it, must eventually lead to the decline of humanity’s status as the leading survival success strategy beings currently occupying this planet.
Our selfish intelligence is causing the world we have known to become broken and divided among individuals, instead of melded and wed together in strong social units by those now preoccupied individuals. Can such processes be stopped? Man’s contribution in global warming has been known about for some time, but little or nothing has been done to combat it. Will this new developing, and just as potentially terminal, problem for all of humankind be treated the same way?
~ James Strauss