Lessons Ex Machina | A.I. and the Search to Understand Ourselves

Welcome to Lessons ex Machina, a series of short essays that unpack developments in the A.I. scene in the hope of finding new insights about creativity, business, and what it means to be human.

A.I, Machine Learning, Neural Networks, these — we are told — are humanity’s future. It’s true. A.I. is besting humans in areas we never thought possible. Computers have been beating world champions in games like Chess and Go (now even DOTA 2) since IBM’s machine beat Gary Kasparov in 1997. That’s over two decades of A.I. dominance. A.I. programs are becoming so good at talking, some can trick people into thinking they’re human; they’re supposedly better at seeing now than people are (though that’s based on a small sample size); and of course they’re starting to drive cars.

These technologies are undoubtedly changing the world, but I’m interested in their deeper significance. Nothing comes from nothing. These computers have to be programmed by real people. We’re teaching computers to see, to think, to work — to become more human. If teaching truly is the best way to learn, maybe we can take a lesson from how we teach our machines.

Artificial Intelligence is about more than autopilot freeing us to browse TikTok on our morning commute. The true potential of artificial intelligence is in illuminating how we think, how we solve problems, and how we learn. That is, I believe, the answer to our fears of a soulless future for post-industrial humanity. Researchers keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible for computers. We can pout, argue, even sabotage their efforts, but if history shows us one thing it’s the inevitability of ‘progress.’ What if we decided to make the best of it? What if we decided not to complain, not to blindly embrace every shiny new technological toy, but to open our eyes and pay attention. Maybe we’ll learn something surprising.

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Ben Wachtel

Learning data science sucks. I’m here to try to make things a little easier with overviews and deep dives for we right brained folks :)