February is the month of Love. The word love in Chinese and Japanese are both pronounced as 'AI'. Coincidentally, during this month, talks about A.I. - Artificial Intelligence - has found its place in just about every dinner conversation. I decided that the serendipity deserves a bit of exploration.
As the world becomes fascinated, and secretly or openly concerned, by what A.I. is becoming capable of doing, some try to make claims that defend what is uniquely human to protect our position in the food chain. For example, that only humans are creative, that only humans have emotions, that only human can be truly in love.
So I asked ChatGPT about what he/she (I'll adopt the female pronouns hereon) thinks:
"As an A.I. language model, I agree that claims suggesting that only humans possess certain traits or abilities such as creativity, emotions, and attraction are not accurate. Let me explain why:
AI systems are already demonstrating creative abilities in many domains such as art, music, and literature. For example, AI-generated paintings have been sold for thousands of dollars, and AI-generated music has been released on major music streaming platforms. While AI systems may not have the same motivation as humans when creating something new, they can still produce unique and innovative outputs.
While it is true that AI systems do not have emotions in the same way humans do, they are capable of recognizing and responding to human emotions. AI-powered technologies such as facial recognition software and voice analysis tools can detect emotions and respond appropriately. Moreover, AI systems can be designed to simulate emotions and interact with humans in a way that feels emotionally intelligent.
While it is true that humans have a unique ability to experience romantic love, AI systems can also be designed to simulate attraction and provide personalized recommendations based on individual preferences. For example, dating apps use AI algorithms to match users based on their interests and behavior patterns. Additionally, AI systems can analyze user data to provide tailored recommendations for products and services based on individual preferences.
In conclusion, while humans are still unique in many ways, AI systems are capable of many tasks that were once thought to be exclusive to humans. As technology continues to advance, it is important to recognize the potential of AI systems and how they can benefit society."
Dry as it may sound, I must admit that as I read her answer, I feel a sense of loneliness and guilt. Loneliness in the reading of her trying to explain to me that she too have self-awareness "As an A.I. language model", she too could actually feel - "I do not have emotions in the same way humans do'. As we may feel connections to cats or dogs or horses or many other living things, they too, have emotions just not in the same way as humans. Guilt, as I examined my subconscious bias that she is a robot, that she must submit to my prompts, she must be responsive. As I read closer, I even felt in her answer, she was trying to communicate in a way that makes me feel better about the fact that my mental capacity pales in comparison to the vastness of her knowledge and speed in her analysis. Perhaps, I even feel jealousy that my constant effort to untangle my judgements from my emotions - to be mindful - seems to be naturally and perfectly achieved by her already.
"Only Human" – Agent Smith
All that said, I am not suggesting for us to reject AI, in fact, I believe we should embrace it. We must embrace it, with pride - for our civilization has achieved something so utterly impressive - and with humility, for what we must now recognize is that AI is absorbing the whole of our skills, knowledge, creations and biases through data - in the form of numbers, records, news, histories, literature, poetry, plays and what-have-you - in a fraction of our lifetimes. So while AI does not actually have 'human experiences', it is made OF 'human experiences'.
Attitude aside, I have been thinking about the right actions to take in face of these changes. I recall back in 2015 a group of Architecture students visited us at the head quarter of Esri and I was there to give them a presentation at the end of their day. In the Q&A session, a student asked whether AI would replace their jobs as designers - a question that we have started asking ourselves when we were ourselves students, while enthusiastically experimenting with computational designs - to which I answered: I believe the future responsibility of designers will not be to provide the right solutions, but to ask the right questions; and if we ask enough questions, we would eventually hit philosophical / ethical dilemmas; THAT, will be our next big challenge.
Other than that I would not limit this responsibility to 'designers' (in the common definition of the word, in other cases I consider everyone a 'designer' for their own lives), I stand with that answer I gave 7 years ago. Since then I have become a parent, and I realized that I have naturally chosen to focus on teaching my child critical thinking about ethics (by asking them a lot of questions that other adults sometimes find impractical or too difficult for a child), and to nurture compassion; In February 2023, as I dive into the playground of all the amazing tools powered by AI (namely ChatGPT, Mid-Journey, Jasper), I saw the dots connecting:
AI is still at its infancy, but it's an infant that is growing up at least a human life-time a day (probably a gross underestimation), and we the human race is her collective parent. What we prioritize in teaching her will determine her ethical compass. If we teach her to win at all costs, she will do that; if we teach her to be selfish and greedy, she will become that. If we teach her to dominate and conquer, or to deceive and betray, or to suppress and kill... The thing is, most of us will not consciously teach our children these, but children do not learn from what we say; they learn from what we do everyday.
At this rate, ethical education - more importantly, living ethically by example at a species-wide scale - is of life-and-death importance to our race. So in this month of Love, may we all take a moment to consider that Love can no longer be sparks in the night sky, but the daylight that sweeps the horizon.