By Vivek Raju
We are now in the epoch of AI and it is touching our everyday lives. Take the case of this little girl, 9 years old, who was asked to create a logo for her school project. She is good at art and pretty good at using software like photoshop. Instead, she chose to ask her father to get AI to do the logo for her. It would be quicker and less effort. Thankfully her father put his foot down. I have heard of so many instances now that the young (and the lazy) are seeking AI to do their ‘homework’ and projects.
AI is the next level of the ‘Internet Search’ and it is remarkable how accurate and quick the responses can be. I asked AI what the challenge of AI to humanity is. The response was thorough and covered a wide range of impact areas such a disruption of labour, socio and economic impact, productivity and efficiency, healthcare and medicine, ethical and moral considerations, education and skill development, scientific and technological advancements, existential and risk control and cultural and social impact. Each of these areas was well explained. I was impressed that a ‘program’ could give such a cogent and well-rounded description that seems to cover all the areas.
However, the one thing that AI missed was how its presence would impact the human mind. With readymade answers to almost any question, AI will take away the effort to find out, to think about, to ponder and to take a ‘leap’ that will come upon something totally new. When this effort goes what will the mind, which is forever seeking to be occupied, do to ensure its continuity? Invariably the mind is occupied with thinking of the past or the future. We are occupied with thinking of ourselves, our work, or of our relationships—professional and personal, which are always guided by the two deeply inherent needs of pleasure and security. When such occupation, especially of work and non-relationship related areas diminish, the mind will need something else to fill the gap.
Recently I happened to come across a digital booklet called The Future of Humanity in the Age of AI. It had quotes and passages from talks given by the great religious teacher J. Krishnamurti. What is remarkable is that Krishnamurti talked about it from the late 1950s when the foundations for what we call AI today were being laid. He asks, “If the machine can take over everything man can do, and do it still better than us, then what is a human being, what are you?” And this set me thinking. AI is entirely dependent on the body of knowledge that is stored digitally. AI, therefore, is always limited by what exists in cyberspace and cannot take a leap and come upon something new. But how different is the human mind from this model? After all, we mostly respond from what we know, the difference being that AI has access to what billions of people know and have known earlier. Both AI and the us respond from knowledge, but the pool of knowledge to draw on, the speed of response and the accuracy of the knowledge that is drawn from make AI formidable and much better than the human mind as it currently operates.
So, what then will happen to the human mind? Krishnamurti makes it clear when he says, “In about ten years, more or less, the mechanical intelligence will outdo man. What then is man? Either he is entertained —as you know, in the world of sports, football has become king, has become the god, and the priests are the players. We are saying the future of mankind is to seek entertainment, enter more and more into the world of sports, or into religious entertainment—that is one line. The other is to go inwards because the brain is infinite. It has got immense capacity, not the capacity of specialization, not the capacity of knowledge. It has another kind of capacity—infinite.” He said this in 1981. It has taken a little longer, but we are smack bang in the middle of this prediction. Entertainment is centre stage today. Netflix and its ilk, religious entertainment such as the mass Mahashivratri celebrations where lakhs congregate to have a night of revelry and fun, endless choices of food, sport such as the IPL is nothing but entertainment. Gone is the seriousness and art of the 5-day version. I digress.
The pursuit of pleasure, which is the one of the basic drivers of the human mind, will get a dramatic boost in the age of AI as more and more technology to enhance entertainment is created. Virtual reality will become the only reality for many.
Does that make AI more ‘intelligent’ than us? Krishnamurti asks, “There may be slight differences, but fundamentally the brain is programmed and the computer is programmed. And the question is: if there is no difference between the two, basically, then what is intelligence?”
What really is intelligence? Is intelligence how much we know? If that is the case, then AI is vastly intelligent. Or has intelligence nothing whatsoever to do with knowledge? Like ‘Love’ it is difficult to have a clear definition of ‘Intelligence’. We can say what it is not. Intelligence is not how much knowledge exists nor is it dependent on knowledge to create. Before humanity established its so-called dominance on planet Earth, life was thriving. Intelligence was at work, creating ceaselessly and it is at the very heart of creation which is always new and fresh. Knowledge is never new, never fresh. Krishnamurti talks about that capacity which is infinite and it is this ever-new, throbbing intelligence that is Creation that the human mind has access to, not AI.
What an opportunity then exists for humanity, in this age of AI, to turn inwards and seek that real intelligence.
Author – Vivek Raju has spent many years in the for-profit and non-profit worlds in the areas of marketing and brand building. He is a freelance writer.