If the idea that you are being controlled by algorithms is scary to you, then hold on tight, this could be a challenging read.
On the other hand, if you’re more concerned about AI taking over the world Terminator-movie-style, then have a cuppa and relax. I don’t know if that might happen or not, and I'm just not going to address that question in this article, so you can relax.
So if you are freaked out by AI, how can you confidently embrace the change that is coming? The first thing to do is accept that it's already happened!
Watching a documentary like The Social Dilemma (Netflix) and reading books like I, Human by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, can be tough. It is concerning content – for us, for our children, for our society.
We realise that we have been hoodwinked into a lifestyle that is so dependent on people using our data and selling insights about who we are and what we do to the highest bidder for them to sell us something.
Your smartwatch, your social media accounts, your TV watching, internet browsing, Google maps searches, GPS location tracking, YouTube viewings… all build a picture of what you like and what people can sell you. We sign up “for free” to these services thinking we’re getting a bargain, when the bargain is us and our attention.
We give ourselves freely to the advertisers wanting to keep us addicted to our tech devices, so that we can view more advertising and provide more data to the algorithms on how to sell to us most effectively.
But it gets worse.
We are not just being sold to, we are also being shaped by those devices, their content and the algorithms behind it all.
You see, if you’re a system designed to find ways to predict human beings, you have two main options: to get better at predicting, or to make the person more predictable. AI is working on both, capturing more data from everything you do in order to predict your next move. And it is feeding you suggestions that, as you get lazy and just click and react, are shaping your behaviour.
We are becoming more predictable, because we are becoming less attentive and selective about what is put in front of us. Which is easy to do, because the algorithms know to put stuff in front of us we are likely to agree with.
In an interview with McKinsey, Chamorro-Premuzic commented that, “If we think of humanity as the model that algorithms and artificial intelligence try to imitate, we’ve diluted ourselves to create a model of humanity that is too simple.”
The challenge to us is to consider what makes us uniquely human and maximise that. For example, our curiosity, creativity and relationship building are things that AI cannot yet, and may struggle to in future, replicate. We should take confidence from the thought that there are some things that are inherently, well human!
But how do we avoid simply giving up and saying AI will take over? You’ve got to love Chamorro-Premuzic’s wit in claiming he does not have a definitive answer, however: “it’s probably not staring at your screen or phone for most of your day, clicking on boxes, and reacting to algorithmic recommendations to train AI to get even better.”
So consider how curious you are.
Curious enough to read a whole book or a whole news story, not just a headline?
Curious enough to ask why and explore things in more depth?
Curious to wonder about different perspectives to your own, or the one you just read about? How might other people see this?
Curious to spend time with different people, with different backgrounds and different viewpoints?
What if you were to spend more time in that space of curiosity, and less time looking at the things your phone suggests you look at?
“To have an open mind, you need to be willing to proactively seek information that runs counter to your own attitudes, which is much harder – and less likely – when you are not paying attention and are at the mercy of AI’s algorithms.”
And, just in case you’re adding a judgemental tone to the reading of this, and thinking I'm telling you you’re in the wrong….
Please know that I'm right in this with you! I have the same issues, same addictions to my devices, and I'm working on getting boundaries in place to choose where to place my attention.
Want to join me?