Does Artificial Intelligence Optimize Human Beings?
September 14, 2020
The concept of the perfect human is as old as humanity itself. But self-learning algorithms are bringing the realization of this idea a little closer now, just as they entail the fear of the omnipotence of machines. Does artificial intelligence make us smarter, better looking, healthier and happier? Four questions and four answers.
1. Does AI Make People Smarter?
It is long evident that computers get smarter thanks to artificial intelligence. But this is also exactly where the problem lies. Professor Pedro Domingos, an expert on artificial intelligence, sums it up:
“People worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they’re too stupid and they’ve already taken over the world.” (Pedro Domingos: The Master Algorithm)
So, it’s less about the application possibilities and more about the quality of the digital assistant. Machines serve people. They render assistance with the computation of data heavy problems. As a result, the intellectual performance capacity of each individual grows when he employs computers doing the tasks for which they were made. Because people can use computers for all structured problems, this leaves more room for creativity.
If machines can make ever more decisions thanks to artificial intelligence, then this is also true for a clearly definable area in which classifiable data exists. The decision-making for exceptional and very individual problems remains reserved for humans. So, the tasks for human intelligence will become more and more challenging. It’s clear then that those who utilize artificial intelligence can’t turn off their own brains.
And so, the first point is awarded to AI: adaptive algorithms have the potential to make people smarter.
At least the BMBF (Federal Ministry for Research and Development) is certain: human health is strengthened through artificial intelligence, because digitalization and AI
unburden clinic personnel
improve patient care
assist in making reliable medical diagnoses.
AI demonstrates distinct advantages especially in the area of diagnostics: uncovering anomalies on x-ray images or in computer tomography is practically made for systems that are based on artificial intelligence. And the further AI also advances into the area of therapy (for example when comparing success rates), the better the results in individual health promotion are, too.
However, also the intelligent larger data sets from biobanks, gene databases and study results can reveal correlations between lifestyles, nutrition and pre-existing conditions on one side and overall health on the other side. There is great potential for the constant optimization of humans in the sense of a healthier life. People who are healthy have fewer worries and live longer.
Clear result: AI can make people healthier, but it is no cure-all. The health of the population depends above all on a well-developed medical infrastructure.
3. Does AI Make People More Beautiful?
Better looking thanks to artificial intelligence? Beauty is famously in the eye of the beholder. For anyone who’d like to please as many people as possible with their looks and who has no fear of beauty clinics, AI data can shed some light on characteristics the majority of the population considers signals of attractiveness. On this data basis you can book cosmetic surgery to have, for example, the “perfect” nose shaped for you.
But it always comes down to the overall picture. As a rule, a healthy person is always more visually attractive. And if AI contributes to general health (see above), then AI might make people better-looking. But then again, overall health is not a direct effect of AI, rather a result of a healthy life.
Result: beauty continues to get by without AI. Nature is and remains unbeatable.
4. Does AI Make People Happier?
Self-driving cars, service robots, smart homes and Alexa – artificial intelligence is conquering more and more areas of life. The question of whether these technologies make people more content is something every person can only answer for himself. Luckily, people are free to choose which AI tools to use, and which to pass on. If AI, as a much-vaunted economic engine, promotes quantitative as well as qualitative growth, then an increase in the quality of life is certainly possible.
Happiness is always a very individual question, but also quantifiable in moderation. Thus, gross domestic product and life expectancy are often at the top of the list of critical factors for “sense of happiness” in various countries. These aspects are undoubtedly influenced by artificial intelligence. The Happiness Report from the United Nations however also counts personal freedom and whether corruption exists as determining parameters for happiness. And AI can be deployed here specifically also in a negative sense.
Result: A happier life thanks to AI? It’s a tossup. However, Finland, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, is considered the happiest country in the world. Coincidence?
Everything is better thanks to AI? It depends what we make of it. A knife can cut bread, but also injure a person. The future depends on how we use the advantages of new technologies and avoid the dangers posed by an all too large trust in self-learning algorithms. Better living through artificial intelligence is not guaranteed, but entirely possible. The potential undoubtedly exists.
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