AI AND PHILOSOPHY
How A.I. Will Help Us Discover Our Essence
AI might put an end to centuries-long debates on the nature of human
“The greatest benefit of the arrival of artificial intelligence is that AIs will help define humanity. We need AIs to tell us who we are, “ writes the editor of Wired Kevin Kelly in his book The Inevitable.
Since time immemorial, humans have been grappling with defining our identity and determining the meaning of life.
The advent of AI is expected to usher in unprecedented changes, both positive and negative, and true implications will depend on how well we manage them. But the best thing about AI is that it will help us answer the most fundamental questions, such as “What are humans for? Who we are we — just the byproduct of nature, combination of cells and neurons, or something very different? What is the meaning of life?”
The race to build artificial general intelligence (AGI) is already on, with Microsoft investing $1 billion in OpenAI and Europe endeavoring to build an AGI modeled on the structure of the human brain — The Human Brain Project (although Scientific American reports that the project is currently “in disarray”).
Because the issue of whether we can build an AGI rests on foundational issues that define humanity, it will be possible for us to answer these questions by finding out whether we can build AGI.
In the table above, based on Byron Reese’s book “The Fourth Age”, we can see the underlying assumptions of people who think we can and cannot build AGI — these beliefs are about the nature of reality, what we are, and what is our self.
Nowadays, we are unable to answer these questions completely; yet if we build AGI, we will be forced to recognize that humans are fundamentally machines, that everything is governed by the laws of physics rather than God’s will, and that our sentiments and emotions are just the expressions of neurons’ activity.
But if we will be unable to build a true AGI, then this means that there is something in this world that makes humans distinctive from other species — such as soul and consciousness.
Mankind will find itself in the coming decades — perhaps even centuries — in a permanent identity crisis, because as AI encroaches upon fields which previously were dominated by humans, we will, again and again, ask ourselves what humans are good for, what makes us special, what can we do better than AI. AI will encourage us to push the boundaries of our abilities, to find something that can not be replicated by technologies — and ultimately discover the true destination of mankind.
Technology is unlocking the innate compassion we have for our fellow human beings. Bill Gates
AI [will let us] focus on what truly makes us human: loving and being loved. Let us choose to let machines be machines, and let humans be humans. Kai-Fu Lee
For thousands of years, philosophers and scientists have been trying to answer fundamental questions and failed to come to precise conclusions — but thanks to the emergence of AI, humanity will finally be able to put an end to these endless debates.
What are humans for? Who we are we — just the byproduct of nature, combination of cells and neurons, or something very different? What is the meaning of life?
Ironically, the greatest benefit of AI will not be increased productivity, the society of abundance and leisure, or entirely new world order — rather, it will help us find out the true nature of the human.