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Saving Our Humanity

Aug 10, 2017
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Saving Our Humanity

Recently, technologist Elon Musk pontificated that the greatest risk to our human civilization is unregulated artificial intelligence. I think he is onto something. AI is not a threat to humanity the way ISIS or North Korea is. ISIS may spread worldwide terror and local genocide. North Korea might spark a nuclear holocaust. AI does not represent a threat of human extinction or even a mass casualty event. Rather, AI and some other modern forces may chip away at what makes human life so special… if we aren’t mindful of preserving our humanity.

In a contrarian, possibly tongue in cheek article, Fast Company recently asked who will save AI from humanity. The author mused that nobody really knows what it means to be alive. I am not convinced the article wasn’t actually written by a robot.

Call me a humanitarian, but I believe in human exceptionalism. If you don’t know what it means to be alive, I really can’t be bothered to help you out on that one.

Humans are unique in knowing good from evil. Mankind is capable of tremendous evil like murder and genocide. But, mankind is also capable of compassion, love, joy and hope. Hope is forward looking. As we look forward to our future, we must preserve our humanity.

Humanity is full of quirks like free will. We make good choices, bad choices and sometimes weird, inexplicable choices. We need to keep the freedoms to be ourselves… and suffer the consequences of bad decisions. Our modern nation-states all too often try to protect us from bad choices and bad behavior. That can be very troublematic. Suffering negative consequences from poor decisions is one way humans learn and curb less than optimal behavior. Personally, I prefer having freedom to fail rather than having the government or experts prevent me from ever taking risks, trying something new or divergent. This is part of the human experience. It is also how we learn, innovate and discover.

We live in an age that rewards crass, craven bad behavior. Despite exponential technological advances, this is not a golden age of human behavior. As artificial intelligence becomes reality, we humans should cultivate our better selves. Many of us won’t. But we should. We should show more graciousness, compassion and love to each other.

I am not the first to say that the way to beat the bots in the workplace of the future is to be more human, not less. We should be thinking about our humanity, ethics, spirituality, hopes and aspirations.

At the end of the day, artificial intelligence is not really the threat to our humanity. As always, humans are the threat to – and the preserver of— our human civilization. Each one of us has a role to play in saving our humanity.


Photo Copyright: Oneinchpunch – 123rf.com

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