Mindful Skepticism

Humans fear what they don’t understand. We are descendants, mostly, of the people who decided not to stray from the cave for fear of the unknown. Our fear of technology seems especially acute — even Socrates warned that the written word would bring about the end of civilization. In modern times, Steven Hawking and Elon Musk have warned about the dangers of artificial intelligence. As Eric Schmidt pointed out: though they are both brilliant men, they are not computer scientists.

Technological progress is inevitable, and the best way to manage it is to understand it. Musk, for his part, has embraced OpenAI to research and share the technology. Advocates for the use of emerging technologies for societal good must remember that humans don’t scale as quickly as machines. However, humans are an adaptive species. We adjust our cultural practices when necessary in order to adjust to new environments and to take advantage of resources as they become available to us. As a result, we don’t merely survive, we thrive.

On an individual and professional level, the potential benefits of risk outweigh that of caution. Failures are usually forgiven, while successes are remembered and rewarded. Not all uses of these technologies are useful or beneficial, but we should be just as wary of our natural inclination for fear. By remaining informed and aware of both technology and our biological response, we can be mindfully skeptical — questioning, embracing, or rejecting when appropriate.