Humans Vs. Machines: the Human Advantage and the Bigger Question
Updated: Apr 26
Following the recent introduction of Open AI’s ChatGPT, social media has been full of both pessimistic and optimistic scenarios about what that means for the future of humanity as a whole or for individual professions. That, and some of the work I have been doing lately, have provoked me to share some thoughts.
Are We Indeed “Not Enough” in This Competition?
I felt that much of the dialogue around the new tool is driven by the fears of our own inadequacy in the competition between humans and machines. And yes, I agree that there are some scenarios that look gloomy.
There are also real problems that the advancement of AI brings. I will get to that a bit later because I want to focus first on our fears of being outperformed by AI.
I asked ChatGPT what ten ways humans differ from machines, and here is what it answered:
Consciousness and self-awareness: Humans possess a level of self-awareness and consciousness that machines lack. Humans have the capacity to introspect, reflect on their experiences, and understand their own thoughts and emotions.
Creativity and imagination: Humans have the ability to generate novel ideas, be creative, and imagine things that have never existed before. Machines can only perform tasks within the constraints of their programming.
Emotions and feelings: Humans experience a wide range of emotions and feelings, such as joy, sadness, anger, and fear. Machines can simulate emotions but do not have the capacity to experience them in the same way as humans.
Flexibility and adaptability: Humans have the ability to adapt to new situations and learn from their experiences, while machines require explicit programming to do so.
Intuition and judgment: Humans use intuition and judgment to make decisions based on personal values, experience, and reasoning. Machines make decisions based on algorithms and pre-programmed rules.
Moral reasoning and ethics: Humans have the ability to reason about moral and ethical dilemmas, while machines lack the capacity for moral reasoning.
Social interaction and communication: Humans have the ability to understand and interpret social cues, form relationships, and communicate with others. Machines have limited abilities in this regard and rely on programming to interact with humans.
Purpose and motivation: Humans have the ability to determine their own purpose and motivations, while machines are created for specific tasks or functions by humans.
Learning and development: Humans have the capacity to learn, grow, and evolve over time, while machines require updates to their programming to improve their abilities.
Physical capabilities and sensory experience: Humans have a wide range of physical abilities and sensory experiences, such as touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Machines have limited physical abilities and rely on sensors to perceive the world.
And it finished by adding: “These differences highlight the unique qualities of human beings and the limitations of machines, despite their advanced abilities in specific areas.”
Instead of reassuring me, that made me feel that we have every right to be scared. Here is why.
Consciousness and self-awareness: How many people understand what consciousness is? (Self-awareness might be a bit more relatable but is just as much misunderstood.) And no wonder because consciousness was denied and not understood by science for years. In the last years, science has made advancements but there is still a journey ahead. How does that impact us when making choices, or are we more acting like machines because we deny being conscious? And in general, what is Spiritual Intelligence, what does it mean for our lives, and how do we integrate it?
Creativity and imagination: Do we really understand the source of our creativity and in general the process of creation? Where does inspiration come from? Some of us appreciate human creativity but then again, how respectful are we to the creations of others? Overall, what constitutes Creative Intelligence and how do we foster it?
Emotions and feelings: Yes, we have the capacity to experience emotions and feelings. And yet, do we understand the difference between emotions and feelings? Not only that, but we have been working hard on numbing ourselves because feelings can be messy. Do we appreciate the true gift emotions are to our human experience? Truth be told, we have been talking a lot about Emotional Intelligence… But how much of it is just lip-service and are we advancing in real terms?
Flexibility and adaptability: Yes, we know that we have the ability to learn and adapt. And yet, we value stability more, and as a rule, we don’t change easily, and we would rather be right than wise. Especially at work and in school, if you look at the very foundation of our mentality and culture, we would rather have humans being as reliable and predictable as machines. Alongside with this desire for stability, we value planning and predictability. It’s even written in the Business and Economics textbooks that the advantages of automation are that machines have no emotions, do not complain, and do not need to be motivated to work. That desire has step by step separated us from Nature and Nature’s Intelligence to be flexible and adapt. So, do we understand the very essence of our Natural Intelligence? We have been talking a lot lately about Systems Thinking but how much have we really advanced in the development of our Systemic Intelligence?
Intuition and judgment: Do we really know what intuition is, and where does that “deeper knowing without thinking” come from? Do we know how to tap into it? Do we value intuition when making choices? Do we consciously develop our Intuitive Intelligence? Do we work on becoming conscious of our biases and the many other ways in which we get manipulated?
Moral reasoning and ethics: Do we know what Moral Intelligence is and do we foster it? Do we know what Human Agency is and how do we foster it? It is debatable what we know and don’t know about moral reasoning and ethics, but judging by our actions, we have a lot more to learn.
Social Interaction and communication: We consider societies that value individualism over community to be the benchmark of success. Hence, we call progress when countries, societies and people deepen their isolation and disconnection from each other. Right? So, do we know how to tap into our Collective Intelligence? How do we foster Conversational Intelligence and Collaborative Intelligence?
Purpose and motivation: These are probably the areas, alongside with Emotional Intelligence, which have been most popularized lately. And truth be told, there has been a lot of talk about them. And yet, we are still stuck in some outdated understanding of what motivates people. Do we know where Inspiration comes from? Do we really understand what purpose is and how it connects to our Spiritual Intelligence? And if we do, do we trust it and live it?
Learning and development: Traditional education has largely focused on developing skills and competences which machines can do better than us and has been negligent to, and even denying, some of the areas we have discussed here above. Traditional education continues to produce human beings ready to fit into the current system that lack the very skills that would make them competitive in this new world. The good news is that learning that focuses on first acknowledging and then nurturing the discussed human capacities does exist; unfortunately, it remains to be a luxury rather than the norm.
Physical capabilities and sensory experience: We can’t live without our physical capabilities and our sensory experience, and we value them. Or maybe we just take them for granted. Yet, one of the reasons we experience so much stress and mental health is because we prioritize everything else over the moments when we become fully aware of the sounds, smells and scents, sights, tastes, and the experience of human touch. I would argue that we misunderstand the purpose of our biology and therefore miss precious opportunities.
We Are Enough, But No Wonder We Are Scared
We have been neglecting and even denying most of our innate human capabilities, and we have been instead focused on developing the skills in which machines can indeed do better than us. That may have served us well until now, but it won’t be enough today and definitely not tomorrow. So, no wonder we are scared. It has also made us feel empty, numb, cynical, and discouraged.
The good news is we already have it in us, and we only need to live up to our full capabilities: reconnect to what it means to be human, integrate all the aspects of being human, integrate and act upon the meaning of human agency, understand the true source of creativity and creation, integrate consciousness, integrity, intuition, and inspiration, and