Do you ever feel like you are not using your memory anymore? I feel like that all the time.
And I’m not talking about glasses-on-top-of-your-head kind of memory (I’m not that old), but the type of everyday practical memory we once couldn’t live without.
Simple calculations, our usual route to the office, and even complete phone books used to be naturally stored in our minds and did not require any extra effort from our side to retrieve. Hell, my father spent only 3 years at elementary school and was able to solve super complicated multiplications from the top of his head. No calculator or iPhone needed (hear that millennials?).
Along with our lost ability to remember our own family’s phone numbers, we are losing all our navigation skills (Hi, Waze!) and any basic mathematical knowledge we once used to have.
However, AI technology is not stopping here, and is rapidly developing, and machines are expected to take over every aspect of our lives not too far off into the future. One of my favorite authors, Dan Brown, took this prediction one step further in his recent book “Origin”. The book tells the story of Robert Langdon, who is forced into a crime-mystery adventure after attending a presentation at the Guggenheim Museum. Langdon walked through the museum listening to his personal tour guide through earphones, only to later find out he was talking to a machine the whole time (Turing’s Test). Throughout the book, the machine helps Langdon solve the main crime in the storyline and guides him through some very serious decision making.
Apart from thoroughly enjoying Dan Brown’s captivating writing, the book made me ask some questions. Should AI only help us in fulfilling our wishes and needs, or should it also decide and define for us what those are exactly? Where should we draw the line, if at all?
Decision making is the cognitive process of choosing between alternatives based on the decision-makers’ set of values, beliefs, knowledge and emotions. As individuals, we all have a different way of making decisions and acting on them. Opposite to common belief, I personally think that decision making is a stressful process, and one that most people would love to delegate to someone else. I bet that on more than one occasion you all wished you could think like that successful entrepreneur we met last week, or get in touch with our inner George Clooney when we try to talk to the girl we like.
What if the AI tour guide form Dan Brown’s book could not only guide us through our decision making, but also adopt a new set of values and beliefs relevant to the decision in question?
The idea of AI personal assistants having multiple personalities we could all use for different decisions and situations in life is exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Reach a business decision like Bill Gates during the day and court your significant other like Brad Pitt by night. Sounds like the recipe for a successful, stress-free life to me.
But as fascinating and intriguing as this sounds, I can’t help but wonder if individuality will cease to exist. Will we all lead the exact same life? Based on the same line of thought and decision-making process? And let us not forget about the responsibility of our actions. Who will be held accountable for those decisions we made based on our AI personal assistant’s chosen personality? Could criminals be get away with their actions merely by blaming the machine?
Many years ago, when I was just a kid, I saw a blind man and remember feeling very bad for him. My mother noticed the whirlwind of emotions I was in and in an attempt to comfort me told me something that will stay with me for many years to come. She told me that there always is a bright side to every situation, even to blindness - “His eyes may not be working properly, but his hearing is probably much better than the rest of us”. As I grew older, and ever since, whenever I saw a blind man all I could think about is auditory brain cells Pacman-eating the vision brain cells.
Will freeing our brain from all kinds of tedious decision-making processes be what gives us more capabilities? What will we be able to do instead of making decisions? I think that the next stage in our evolution as humans will become the era of creativity. When our mind will be free from decision-making, it will flourish with exploding creativity, and creativity is the essence of God’s deeds.