Don’t Worry About AI, We Have Superpowers They Don’t—Yet

In an age where AI threatens to become widespread, humans would be useless, so there’s a need to merge with machines. — Elon Musk

I’m not sure how comfortable I am with seeing humans as useless, but more to the point, what if we collaborated in the merge?

Like children, who are not deterred by colour, creed or background, what if we could learn to play effectively with the machines, as if we were on the same team? Isn’t that what great leadership does? Doesn’t it identify the strengths of the individual team players, then encourage, facilitate and nurture them, to do what they do best? Thus, it ensures that the sum becomes greater than its parts.

To collaborate effectively, firstly, we need to recognise, appreciate and value AI’s unique strengths. Science and technology data tell us machines are great at:

  • Rules-based logic
  • Searching the web quicker than us humans
  • Working and surviving in deadly environments
  • Translating in many languages
  • Getting a PhD quickly
  • Fast and accurate medical diagnosis
  • Beating the world chess champion

In plain English, they’re logical, tireless and have breakneck speed and accuracy. Kind of all the things we’re not so good at. No wonder the hype in the media, advances in technology and futurists predicting that machines will take over our jobs. However, it’s seriously time to hone in what makes us humans so uniquely, awesomely human.

Humans create opportunities from the very things that machines can’t do as Viktor Mayer Schonberger highlights for BBC Futures: The Last Things That Will Make Us Uniquely Human. Let’s list a few:

We can dream and imagine. Intelligent technology can improve human outcomes, but it needs imaginative minds to realise its full viability. We achieve this through our irrational levels of originality.

We’re radically creative and then take illogical crazy leaps of faith that are arbitrary enough to not be predicted by a bot yet are simpler than randomness. We execute by coming up with crazy ideas and acting on them.

Michael Dix identified the traits we possess as humans for Singularity Hub: Why The Rise of AI Makes Human Intelligence More Valuable Than Ever, hence we have:

Ingenuity enabling us to invent the things we imagine and create entirely new things, and to choose what we learn about. We have a profound human talent of using narrative, vision, empathy and influence, to bring breakthroughs into the world, because creativity is organic not algorithmic.

Adaptability is a key Homosapien trait that enables us to change to suit our environment and execute outside of the context, almost like the fight or flight mechanism—trust me machines don’t have that.

Ethical capacity that enables us to use empathy, make ethical choices if we so wish and even programme a machine to have a moral code. Meta cognition is what we can do that machines can’t.

What’s more, we’re autonomous, because we can choose to adapt, for example to online services, or not. We can choose to be ethical or not. We can collectively work as a group towards collective goals, essential for Homosapien survival. Novel situations don’t phase us, we just apply our experiences from other concepts to address them.

We break the rules, and in doing so, as Nick Seneca Jankel finds, create business models and ideas, unlike machines because they work according to a set of rules; innovation results from breaking them, and often by connecting seemingly unconnected dots.

It’s the amalgamation of these very superpowers, alongside curiosity, dreaming, envisioning, and repurposing that lets us imagine and when our imagination goes rife we the humans innovate big time and push humanity forward another step via creating the future of everything from electric cars to envisioning living on Mars.

Given the diversity of our skills from those of AI, perhaps we need to be asking how do we develop and nurture our competitive advantages to complement the rationality of machines?

When I worked as a children’s nurse in intensive care, I recall how it was the machines that were keeping a child alive. Yet I could also appreciate the things we did as paediatric nurses that the machines couldn’t do like hold a child’s hand through a painful procedure or emotionally support a parent who is daily wondering if their child will be alive tomorrow.

As Garry Kasparov, says, that machines can aid our minds in being lifted to greater creativity, curiosity, beauty and joy is what makes us human. We can empathise, be considerate, have purpose and passion and we can care. 

If we can fully and better appreciate our differences, we can more effectively collaborate in the merge and realise, as the McKinsey Global Institute states, automation’s full potential, by humans and technology working hand in hand. Co-evolution with machines will enable us to create opportunities to use computing to advance the human experience—to take us further than we’ve yet dreamed of and to remember the dreams are ours.

We have a responsibility to recognise how to use the data from machines to create our future. Fundamentally, we need to remember that technology is purely there to enhance human lives. In the words of Nikola Tesla:

…Where the products of the intellect, science and art will serve society for the betterment and beautification of life.

Human life according to Nikolas Badminton is having a desire for certainty, variety, significance, connection, love, growth and contribution. Perhaps our greatest contribution will be working with technology for an overall positive outcome. As Douglas Rushkoff suggests, via Team Human, his weekly podcast enabling human intervention in the economic, technological, and social programs that determine how we live, work, and interact, we need to question and think about how tools and technology are impacting who we are. Then perhaps as Or Shani, points out, when AI is used for good it can radically change the course of human history.

Now more than ever humans have the responsibility to ensure AI is used for good. We can choose what future we create. And we do this using skills that machines do not possess, stubbornness, grit, determination, passion, the desire to never give up and the inner belief that we can do it.

Just because we’ve invented driverless cars, that doesn’t mean we have to give up being in the driver’s seat of how we use technology to move humanity forward. You might beat us at chess, Mr. Machine but you will never beat like our heart does, and for that reason alone you can never really beat us. We’re human and that is our biggest superpower.


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