And what would have happened if Hal read Napoleon?
It seems one of humanity’s goals is to develop artificial intelligence; machines capable of operating towards the far right of Ackoff’s continuum of Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom (DIKW). (The place as of now where we have had the privilege of being the sole operators.) But as technology progresses to reach that goal, are we actually migrating ourselves—at least in terms of day-to-day life—to the left of that continuum? I say that because it strikes me that the amount of time we spend operating in the data/information realm grows larger vis-a-vis the time spent creating/imagining/understanding, or in other words, in the realm of knowledge and wisdom. How much time do we spend in our every waking hour consuming data? Thankfully we still have “sleep—perchance to dream” as Hamlet opined– maybe our last bastion of protected creative time?
The relationship between technology and liberation may not be a one-way function today in other words, as often but forth. Technology, of course, has freed us from many mundane tasks thereby freeing up time to spend in our pursuit of creativity and wisdom and happiness. Machines, created as an outcrop of the industrial age, (be they dishwashers or cotton gins), and the early digital age (PC’s, etc.), have added to the amount of our leisure time and/or increased our efficiency at work—all very good things indeed.
Yet are we approaching a period of diminishing returns, at least in terms of our own growth?
Are we not also experiencing a concomitant increase in anxiety as well from this data gathering overload, as it can be hard to quell a feeling of angst generated from the thought of maybe missing a valuable info-nugget if all those data feeds are not perused daily if not nearly constantly? (See my blog ‘FOMO: 21st century scourge.’) What is the impact on not only lost time spent free to conjecture and theorize but also the ADHD-like neurosis that ensues from taking on the mantle of being info-aware 24/7?
It seems clear we are becoming slaves—or addicts– to our tools; our iPad’s and iPhones and iMacs. How ironic that the “i” in our gadgets has very little to do with the other “I”—the Self–and what has historically defined it. I’m no Luddite, but I have to wonder if we are at risk of devolving into “info-gathering bots”, abdicating slowly our still uniquely human abilities of rich creativity–let alone wisdom– to the machines?
In other words, use it or lose it.
It strikes me that those in the AI community that are calling for caution are focused on the (too?) obvious threat of us developing a brilliant yet malevolent AI that will enslave or destroy us, either from evil intent or out of some chillingly logical conclusion ‘It’ draws. Perhaps however, the seed of our possible destruction is being planted by us and us alone, as we devolve to a point where we beg our AI creations to take over what Sir Joshua Reynolds called the “real labor of thinking”. Studies have already shown many of us would rather receive electrical shocks than to be alone with our thoughts. (see me piece: “Just Shock Me.”) It is time to address this looming crisis, and strive for creative and wise pedagogy and andragogy.
Or, perhaps, that will be the AI’s plan all along! After all, It will surely have read Napoleon: “Never interrupt your enemy when they are making a mistake.”
-Mark HT Ridinger