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Friday, March 24, 2023

What Does it Mean to be Smart in an Age of AI

Excerpt from McKinsey  Complete video at the link.

Author Talks: In the ‘age of AI,’ what does it mean to be smart?

March 16, 2023 | Interview

As artificial intelligence gets better at predicting human behavior, a business psychologist encourages people to strengthen the uniquely human skills that machine learning has yet to tap.

In this edition of Author Talks, McKinsey Global Publishing’s Raju Narisetti chats with Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic about his new book, I, Human: AI, Automation, and the Quest to Reclaim What Makes Us Unique (Harvard Business Review Press, February 2023). Chamorro-Premuzic explains why some AI algorithms model humanity as a simple species, how attention has become commoditized, and why the right questions are now more valuable than the right answers. An edited version of the conversation follows.

Why did you write this, your 12th book, now?

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I’m a professor of business psychology at Columbia University and UCL [University College London] and the chief innovation officer at ManpowerGroup. I, Human: AI, Automation, and the Quest to Reclaim What Makes Us Unique is a book about the behavioral consequences or impact of artificial intelligence, including the dark side of human behavior and what we should do to upgrade ourselves as a species.

The book is written at a time that, in my view, could only be described as the AI age. Humans have always relied on technological inventiveness and innovation to shape their cultural and social evolution, and I think there can be very little doubt that the definitive technology of today is artificial intelligence, or AI.

Now, even the wider public is talking about things like ChatGPT and other conversational interfaces, and the tech giants are described mostly as data companies and as algorithmic prediction businesses.

The book was very much written in the midst of the AI age, or under the influence of AI, because I wrote the bulk of this at the height of the pandemic when we had very little physical interaction or contact with other people outside of our nuclear families. This means I was heavily influenced by hyperconnectedness and the datafication of me. Everything I did was being datafied and subjected to the predictive powers of AI during 2020 and 2021.

I can’t say that there won’t be a better era to read the book, but it certainly wouldn’t have had the same connotation and impact if we had published it five or ten years ago.

Haven’t humans always blamed technology for every problem they face?

There is a common tendency for people to overreact to things that are novel, whether in a good way or in a bad way, and technologies are a very good example of this.

Perhaps the best example is how, when the written newspaper first scaled up and productized, people feared that humans would never meet in person ever again because there would be no information or even gossip to exchange if all the news was in written form. Also, from the 1950s onward, people showed concern that television would lead to less intellectual activities, but I don’t think they were wrong because reading habits went down since mass TV was introduced.

What I tried to do with this book is not be at one extreme or the other. What’s important to me is to not miss the opportunity to highlight the behavioral impact and consequences that we have already seen artificial intelligence have on us. This is not a book about AI, but about humans in the AI age.  ... ' 

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