Friday, June 14, 2024

Understanding AI through Humanity

In an era defined by technological advancements, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has sparked a mix of excitement and trepidation. Beneath this emotional maelstrom lies a key insight: to truly comprehend AI’s potential, we must first understand humanity itself. AI’s proliferation brings along concerns about job security, but what future awaits us in a world where machines can perform most human tasks?

Consider this: a study from the University of Salford and University of Cambridge, published in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine, reveals that an individual’s optimal workweek for happiness spans a mere 8 hours. Surprised? The contrast with the average American’s 1,811 annual work hours, as reported by the OECD, is stark. It’s even more so when noting that 75% of Americans have reported stress-related symptoms in the past month, according to the American Psychological Association. Despite the economic prowess of the United States, there’s a palpable undercurrent of dissatisfaction and rising depression.

But what does this mean for AI? AI mirrors us—it’s a product of our intellect, biases, and societal structures. The emergence of Large Language Models (LLMs) symbolizes a cognitive bridge between humans and machines, fostering unprecedented disruptions and innovations. Yet, the biases present in AI models are echoes of our own, reminding us that certain problems defy straightforward, logical solutions.

My journey as a neurodivergent Vietnamese immigrant has taught me that our understanding of the world is fluid and shaped by an ever-changing mosaic of facts and beliefs. I’ve had to realign my perspective countless times, reflecting the adaptability that has made humans the dominant species on Earth—echoing Bruce Lee’s philosophy of fluidity in the face of obstacles.

This adaptability should inspire a new approach to the world of work. It’s not about laboring harder; it’s about redefining work and education, about working smarter and less. Our fear of AI isn’t rooted in new products or competition—it stems from a lack of self-understanding. How can we achieve this understanding if we’re bound to work 60-80 hours a week on a 40-hour paycheck? How can we understand each other and the world when work consumes our lives?

Proponents of relentless hard work, including PhDs and CEOs buoyed by their accomplishments, often espouse that success requires the same arduous journey for everyone. But that paradigm may no longer apply.

Nations are built on the back of struggles and triumphs. America’s path from the War of Independence to WWII, Vietnam’s battles from ancient conflicts to modern economic challenges—each narrative underscores a journey of learning from the past, not a cyclical return to it.

We gravitate towards machines for their predictability and simplicity, yet understanding humans is crucial in the quest to understand AI. Scott Galloway’s “Adrift” – understanding America’s progress in 100 charts – Suggests we’re adrift in a sea of progress, unable to discern our direction. Where exactly are we heading as a society? Or do we just let the sea of progress dictate where we go? I argue that self-understanding is the compass we need.

Sailing these uncharted waters requires new strategies and initiatives geared towards self-improvement. By fostering a deeper understanding of psychology, history, and culture, we can navigate toward a future where humans work less, enjoy life more, and define a new synergy with the machines they create.

The age of AI challenges us to reimagine ourselves and our roles. As we stand at this crossroads of human and artificial intelligence, let’s strive for a harmony that enriches both our lives and the fabric of society. With this new understanding, the anxiety surrounding AI’s impact on employment can morph into an optimistic vision of a collaborative future—one where technology elevates our human experience rather than diminishes it.

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