by Azhar Siddiqui, managing partner, Mediaplus Middle East.
For too long, human beings have focused on computational power and have been obsessed with the power of the mind. That’s why we need to turn to our emotions, feelings and intuition in order to achieve a higher form of intelligence – and a human-driven future.
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Over the last 20 years, we have witnessed almost all labour-intensive jobs move from human hands to robots or other complex machines. In the last five years, machines are being used to perform complex intelligence-based tasks in areas of medicine, research, space exploration, quantum physics, climate change, infrastructure development and in almost all other areas outpacing the human capacity to process information. Human progress today is almost completely dependent on machines. Without the internet, which is the machine network, we will stop functioning as a modern society.
Now here’s the interesting part: With this exponential growth of machine power, it is predicted that somewhere between 2030 and 2045, the neural networks in machines will be able to compute and process more data and at higher speeds than the neural networks in the human brain – an event known as the technological singularity. Simply put, machines will outthink and outsmart human beings creating a more intelligent being per se. Artificial intelligence will be more intelligent than human intelligence.
What happens then is the subject of many debates with one side stating that machines will take over the world and another side who believe that machines will collaborate with human beings and accelerate human evolution further. So, what is the future going to be like? Should we be scared and stop creating more intelligent machines that will eventually outsmart us and possibly make us their slaves? If we are to evaluate the scenario purely on the computation power or processing speed, then there is no doubt that at some point we will have to submit our dominant position to a more intelligent machine system – known as artificial intelligence.
But I am not threatened by this predicament. The name artificial itself means it’s not real. Human intelligence should not be evaluated only as computational intelligence based on the processing power of the brain. Humans can do so much more than just process information or compute. Humans can feel, humans can connect, humans can sense, and humans can empathize. We have emotions and a unique sense called intuition. The problem is that we do not know how to tap into these emotions and the bigger problem is that we have programmed ourselves not to trust our intuition. We have been relying so heavily on our brains and focusing so much on the ability to algorithmically understand everything around us that we have forgotten how to feel and how to connect with the world around us.
Humans understood the mysteries of the universe long before the laws of gravity and physics were defined. The theories of the universe that we are revealing today are not a revelation, but rather a confirmation of what was already being defined and comprehended thousands of years ago by the men and women we might call philosophers, oracles, Saints or Prophets. Where did their answers come from in an age where no computer or microchip existed? Clearly, humans felt and connected not just through their minds but through other means. Maybe the answers came to them through thoughtful meditation and introspection. Maybe we simply listened more to our feelings and were more in touch with our intuition. Or perhaps we knew how to balance the understanding of our universe between computational thinking, emotional thinking and intuitive thinking?
Perhaps this is the greatest power of being human: to really understand and trust our gut as they say. Feelings that we cannot compute in 0s and 1s, but feelings that still give us answers to so many questions that are mathematically impossible to equate.
Today, we fear that we may no longer be the most intelligent life on earth because the machines we build will have the ability to compute faster than us. And yes, machines will do exactly what they are built to do – process information. And hopefully, humans will learn to escalate to a higher form of intelligence. We will better understand the universe and our place in it. After all, this is what being human is all about.
But this is not going to be an easy journey and there is a real danger that if do not consciously put a real effort into this evolution, we very well may end up living in a real-life Hollywood movie where we become slaves to our machines. We continue to place more and more emphasis on the sciences, finance, production and data processing, and in doing so we are becoming more machine-like and less human ourselves. We equate success with machine-like productivity and evaluate progress through the equation of output of goods and services that have a material or monetary value. We need to stop this obsession and learn how to balance it better with our humanness. This is not going to come automatically, for this requires us to learn the techniques and put in the hard work and commitment required to understand our own humanity first. It will require the investment of our time, and our time right now is disproportionately skewed towards computing the whole universe in equations of ‘if and ‘then’. We need to change this obsession with computational power and algorithmic logic and learn to trust the fact that there is another way for human evolution.
We need a time-out. There is an urgent need to collectively as a human race have a greater understanding and appreciation for art, music, spirituality, humanity, and everything else that is not materialistic in value. We need to formulate more policies in our personal lives, in our businesses and in our governments not just for ourselves but for our entire planet. We need to accept that we are part of a macro ecosystem known as Planet Earth, and we cannot simply use and abuse our planet in the ways we have been doing. We need to celebrate heroes who do good things versus only celebrating heroes who do things that make money. Our evaluation of life overall needs to be redefined from the never-ending pursuit of materialism to a higher cause of self-realization. Our current obsession is turning us into machines, and if we try to compete with artificial intelligence by becoming machines, we will certainly fail. This is proven by the theory of technological singularity.
But my hope lies in the fact that we are not machines, we are humans. We are not artificial, we are real. We can feel, we can sense, and we can connect with each other and with the world around us in more than just one way. We are meant to have a higher purpose and perhaps it is the threat of something artificial that will push us to realize our true potential.
So how do we counter the threat of artificial Intelligence – just be more human.