Humanism and Artificial Intelligence
There are several debates that have risen from the conception of the possibility of giving intelligence to an entity, one of these being the debate on the relationship between humanism and artificial intelligence.
Since the goal of many investigations is to create systems that think like humans, it is natural to try to understand the implication that this has in humanism.
The future of artificial intelligence is in being able to create entities that can equal or exceed a human being, hence the question: Where is the value of the human being and his human condition?
What is humanism?
“Humanism, in the broad sense, means valuing the human being and the human condition”
The term was adopted in 1808 by the German theologian Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, with the educational purpose of focusing on the Greek and Latin classics.
However, strictly speaking, it is possible to think that the first vestiges come from the Renaissance, where during the Middle Ages all thought was focused on religion.
The response to any life event was centered on theology and the study of God’s intervention to understand the environment of humanity.
The radical change that brought humanism to life was to focus life and study on the human being and not on God.
Life stopped turning around God and focused on the human being, his achievements, his abilities and to expand his reach in this world.
It is important to mention that over time, humanism as a doctrine and philosophy has diversified into different currents and understandings.
In order to relate artificial intelligence to humanism, we will base ourselves on the following:
Characteristics of humanism
- Anthropocentrism, the human being is the center of all things (For us)
- Reason above faith.
- Diffusion of knowledge and education.
- Investment in research and development as a source of progress.
- Rejection of ethereal ideas without scientific support.
- The human being is free.
The presence of these characteristics in society allowed us to emerge from obscurantism and generate a new era of search for knowledge and value for humans.
The relationship of humanism to artificial intelligence
There are different classifications of artificial intelligence, based on its method, technology, objective and more.
In relation to humanism, 4 stand out:
- Entities that increase the capacity of the human being.
- Entities that think like humans
- Entities that act like humans.
- Entities that surpass humans
The first thing we can notice is that our understanding of artificial intelligence is measured based on what a human being can or cannot do.
In one way or another, humanism has been the catalyst for the idea of artificial intelligence to exist under the following assumptions:
- We are about to reach a limit of capacity, knowledge and growth as human beings.
- Natural evolution is considered “slow” by current standards of progress.
- We currently have the technology and knowledge to create the foundations of what will be the future of intelligence in the world.
- (Debatable), in the absence of evidence of an all-powerful god, the quest to create one.
Artificial intelligence as a catalyst for humanism
The most outstanding characteristics of humanism is man-centered thinking and its insatiable search for knowledge.
The programming of artificial intelligence can lead to the discovery of elements that help man to:
- Understand his environment in a more specific or efficient way.
- Achieve discoveries that would have taken man centuries to deduce.
- Enable space exploration capability.
- Personal assistants like Siri or Alexa that can completely replace a human.
- Increase human capacities from natural to superhuman.
- Perform tasks or activities with greater precision and less time.
- Many others.
One the ideas that stand out the most, is that if the human manages to create a general artificial intelligence and he establishes control over it, then his inner desire to be a “god” could come true.
Artificial intelligence is gradually becoming the tool that will consolidate the ideas of humanism and take them to the next level.
The knowledge that is generated, will change the understanding that we have of our world, consequently science and religion will be increasingly separated.
Not everything is good, risks must be considered.
One of the most outstanding organizations in artificial intelligence analysis and information is Future of Life Institute.
With the idea of maintaining a common and clear objective regarding what we want to achieve with artificial intelligence, this organization issued an open letter.
This open letter seeks to collect signatures to set a precedent for community interest in achieving artificial intelligence that benefits everyone.
In summary, we believe that research on how to make AI systems robust and beneficial is both important and timely, and that there are concrete research directions that can be pursued today.
Contradictions of humanism
- Anthropocentrism has resulted in the destruction of the environment and lack of empathy for other living beings.
- The human has acquired a sense of superiority that goes beyond his own reality.
- Capitalism and information have become the new source of power.