The Human Potential of Artificial Intelligence

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In movies like Blade Runner, one sees excellent examples of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Though set in 2019—less than four years from now—humans are nowhere close to living in outer space or driving flying cars, and the idea that AI will change the world in our lifetime seems unlikely. That said, some influential people in the science and tech community have their concerns.

Liviu Nedelescu, in his article for the Harvard Business Review, We Should Want Robots to Take Some Jobs, states, “According to Ray Kurzweil, Elon Musk and others, once artificially intelligent machines are able to design other machines, humans will become an endangered species.”  

Stephen Hawking agrees, stating, “…the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Given such dire warnings, one wonders how realistic “evil” AI might be and whether or not humans should begin to panic.

Despite the concerns of some, there are other experts that see great potential. In their article, Beyond Automation, MIT Digital Business Center fellow, Thomas Davenport, and editor at large for the Harvard Business Review, Julia Kirby, express a different opinion.

Citing MIT economist, David Autor, they describe “strong complementarities,” noting that, “Tasks that cannot be substituted by computerization are generally complemented by it.”

Davenport and Kirby call this “an augmentation strategy”, which, they say, “means starting with what humans do today and figuring out how that work could be deepened rather than diminished by machines.”

They suggest, “…creating meaning and innovating will be democratized through technology.”

Imagine a world where the routine tasks are taken care of so that everyone can take on work that both challenges and fulfills them. The rise of AI doesn’t have to be a new industrial age destined to leave people jobless. It will, however, require people to study their chosen profession and perfect the inherently human skills and abilities that can’t be automated. In this scenario, education could be changed in unimaginable ways.

Perhaps Davenport and Kirby put it best: “Let the machines do the things that are beneath you, and take the opportunity to engage with higher-order concerns.”