The other day, I read a blog by Bill Gates on how Artificial Intelligence is about to change our lives. I was tempted to go along with Gates’ enthusiasm as he writes about the possibilities AI is going to provide for us in the very near future. However, at the same time the article evoked in me a feeling of dystopia. There is no better way for me to describe this feeling than to quote the French philosopher Sadin, who was recently interviewed by NRC.
Generative AI versus human expression
Especially in his dissertation on generative AI, Sadin describes what I believe to be the greatest risk concerning the current development of AI: “There is no effort in anything we do, there is no need for us to use our intellectual capacity. […] To learn language, to exert one’s mind, to put in an effort. Sweating and slaving away, suffering. Writing is not easy, but it is a reflection of our individuality, in every way: to speak in first person, to express ourselves in our own manner, at our own level, both in daily life as well as great novels. This is why I believe that generative AI is a threat to human expression, one of the most fundamental elements of our humanity.”
Nothing worth having comes easy
I am firmly convinced of the importance of making an effort, to work for what you wish to accomplish. As Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Nothing worth having comes easy.” Applying attention and energy towards our goals is what makes them worthwhile. It is the only way to give true value to anything. Considering this, AI-generated creations have less value.
Friend or foe to creativity
Does this mean that generative AI, or AI in general, is essentially bad? Absolutely not. Regarding Sadin’s interview, one of my co-workers noted that AI could be a great asset to creativity and brain stimulation. Also, the advantages mentioned by Gates are very real. The complexity in this case is in the fact that both perspectives may be true: AI could very well be encouraging to stimulation and creativity, helping mankind forward, and it could make us numb and superficial, taking from us our communality, our humanity.
The need for responsible AI
This is exactly why it is important to account for any possible impact on people and society when developing and implementing AI applications. We need to be mindful of an honest and just balance of benefits and costs, but also of how AI will influence our thoughts, our actions and our interaction with each other. Though I do not share Sadin’s pessimism, I do appreciate his warning: leaving AI development to profit-driven companies does not make responsible use of it very probable. There are plenty of examples of that, such as the recent lawsuit against Meta concerning the addictive algorithms on Facebook and Instagram. OpenAI’s board of directors seemed to feel the same way when they fired CEO Sam Altman.
I very much believe in the positive contribution AI can make to society, and in that regard, I am optimistic. However, we still need to learn how to bring in AI without bringing harm to who we are as people, our human dignity. Therein lies the greatest challenge today, in my opinion, and the greatest urgency for deploying AI in a responsible way.