None of us are old enough to have experienced the Industrial Revolution, but give your imagination a free hand. What must people in the 1500s have felt when gigantic machines started doing the work of 100 humans? A few centuries later, we’re again crouching in skepticism on whether machines will take over our lives and livelihoods. Does anyone still doubt the wisdom of the saying, “history repeats itself”?
If we’ve learned anything from history, it is that befriending your enemy is one of the Lincolnian lessons to imbibe across all spheres of life. That brings us here, trying to befriend AI – our newest enemy of jobs!
Why We Must Become Friends With AI
Here’s why befriending your enemy is a lesson worth learning. Apart from the obvious advantages of seeing a new point of view, we are also breaking our psychological need for affirmation and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Also, if we peel away the sociological commentary and urban metaphors, the truth is that we cannot fight technology. It is a dictum of history and also one of the universal truths of our civilization. It has been tried, and it has always been a lost battle. Technology, which, in this case AI, is like fire – neither good nor bad; it is morally omnipresent and takes the shape of the hands that use it.
Is it Easy to Become friends With AI?
Adult friendships are hard, especially if you think about the amount of effort, discomfort, and energy it takes – let alone trying to convert an adversary. It’s like hugging a cactus to examine every thorn regularly over an extended period of time. So, is it really a surprise that YouGov’s 2019 research found that millennials are one of the loneliest generations in spite of the hyper-connectedness of the internet? The irony of the fact that I’m talking about loneliness in an article about befriending AI is not lost on me, but we’ll be deceiving ourselves if we don’t embrace the impact AI is going to have in our day-to-day lives.
How to Become Friends With AI?
1. Be Curious and Open to Suggestions
Imagine a time you went to a house party, and you only knew the host. Socially awkward and enthused by some liquid courage, you smile and strike up a conversation with the first person that makes eye contact with you.
How do you begin? By being reluctantly curious. By nevertheless asking a few questions.
“How do you know the host?”
“Where did you grow up?”
“So what are your summer holiday plans?”
Before you know it, they are describing their incredulous trekking trip through the Andes and Machu Pichu last summer and it was life-changing. You end that night with some incredible recommendations for summer and a pleasant acquaintance with a promise of new friendship.
2. Test Waters and Slowly Explore the Deeper Layers of AI
So you and Ms. Machu Pichu hit it off, add each other on Instagram (or whichever self-gratification tool you use). You then wait the customary cooling-off period – any arbitrary number of hours between 24 and 48. And thus, with your first ‘Heyy’ begins a friendship. You start small with a plan to grab a beverage and then a meal. Followed by a classy play, maybe a movie, and then surreptitiously sharing your trauma under the garb of a “book club discussion”.
We slowly start gauging the limits of our new friend’s sense of humor, pushing the subtle innuendos their way and watching intently as our memes get from stereotypical pop culture references to politically incorrect jokes.
3. Learn to Live With the Challenges or Limitations of AI
Different AI models process information differently, with some better at data analysis, some at summarising, and even fewer at image generation. If you’re not sure how to use an AI tool or service, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the Youtube fraternity.
4. Give the Right Feedback and be Cognizant of Inherent Biases
True friendships create the psychological safety to share constructive criticism. Thankfully for us, AI is emotionally neutral and devoid of feelings. That makes it easier to provide feedback and make the machine learning algorithms do their thing. But since these models are constantly learning and mimicking, we need to feed it correct information, let it know when the answers are wrong and most importantly, we have to be conscious of our biases affecting the content.
Providing criticism is not a euphemism for being outright rude. Ah, the long-standing debate in the world of ethical AI! Those who argue for being polite and maintaining etiquette cite human dependency and the ongoing hybrid nature of AI as a big reason. There might, after all, be a human behind a lot of the fact-checking, translating, clarifying, and correcting the responses. The other side cites the lack of sentience and the fact that AI is just a tool that we use for efficiency and getting work done – imagine always having to add “PLEASE” before every “VLOOKUP”!
5. Don’t Become Dependent on AI or Let it Destroy Your Intelligence
Individuality and authenticity are more than buzzwords in your diversity and equity programming in the workplace. AI is an excellent tool to process data and information, so use it for that purpose to augment your creative process. Use it as an “assisting” intelligence rather than an “artificial” one – and then run it by your beautiful big brain to create something original and authentic.
As much as I’ve anthropomorphized AI, the idea of a friendship with AI was inspired by a keynote by the HubSpot CTO, Dharmesh Shah, on how he fell in love with generative AI. But truth be told, friendship just makes so much more sense because it allows me to not be married to the idea of AI but bask in the joy of a new friendship along with my old friends Data Analytics, Blockchain, Web 3.0 & the Internet. Ultimately, AI is here to make our lives easier, better, and more fulfilling – so we don’t waste our time with the mundane. If we are not quick to include it in our upskilling repertoire, we will not only be laggards in the innovation adoption curve but also debilitatingly lonely in our careers and personal lives.
NOTE: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Emeritus.