“Instead of thinking about machine intelligence in terms of humans vs. machines, we should consider the system that integrates humans and machines—not artificial intelligence, but extended intelligence.”
– Joi Ito, Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto
Technology is evolving and expanding at a profound rate, giving rise to new innovations with the potential to either fundamentally elevate or diminish humankind, depending on the narrative you’re listening to. The concept of humans pitted in competition against machines is deeply woven in today’s technology narrative. Machines coming for our jobs, artificial intelligence (AI) that can easily outthink humans, technologies transforming from mindless machines to sentient masters…these are all common themes in the news and media, literature, film, pop culture, and even scientific journals and periodicals.
But the narrative is what’s killing us, not the technology. When it comes to humanity’s complicated relationship with artificial intelligence, reductionist thinking – reducing humans to be only valued by their intellectual acuity versus their holistic selves – is both ineffectual and harmful for creating a positive, prosperous future. This line of reasoning devalues emotion, creativity, spirituality, and wisdom, the very qualities that make people essentially, wondrously human. Further, ignoring the vital connections we forge with one another and the environment serves only to reduce global wellbeing and diminishes the benefits of the technologies and systems that we’re devising for humanity’s benefit in the first place.
What’s needed now is a sea change in our thinking, approach to, and acceptance of both current and future generations of systems and machines, as well as coming to an important realization about ourselves. It is critical that we as a species recognize that while we’re prone to mistakes and personal biases, in no way are humans inherently broken and in need of fixing.
We don’t need replacing by robots, AI and machine learning, or intelligent, autonomous systems. What we do need is better comprehension of our interconnections to others and the world around us. And we must recognize that humans do and will continue to play an integral role in the development of advanced technologies, rather than being devalued or supplanted by them. It’s not about artificial intelligence; it’s about extended intelligence.
As further stated by MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito in Resisting Reduction: A Manifesto, “Instead of trying to control or design or even understand systems, it is more important to design systems that participate as responsible, aware and robust elements of even more complex systems. And we must question and adapt our own purpose and sensibilities as designers and components of the system for a much more humble approach: Humility over Control.”
To that end, the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) and the MIT Media Lab have joined forces and launched the global Council on Extended Intelligence (CXI). Comprising a diverse array of global thought leaders, the Council aims to move society beyond the human versus machine narrative to transform the reductionist thinking of the past into a holistic, forward-looking vision of tomorrow. This is how to ensure humans and technology work in sync to realize a more positive, prosperous future.
To learn more about how to avoid reductionism and the work of the Council on Extended Intelligence, join Joi Ito, IEEE-SA Managing Director Konstantinos Karachalios, Andre Uhl, Anja Kasperen, and Chelsea Barabas for a free webinar about CXI at 1:30pm EDT on Tuesday, July 17.
You can register here for the webinar, and full details are below.
John C. Havens is the Executive Director of the Council on Extended Intelligence and IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems.
Reductionist thinking regarding humanity’s relationship with machines is both inaccurate and ineffectual in terms of creating a positive future. While the machines and systems currently comprising “Artificial Intelligence” offer great promise, the narrative surrounding their proliferation ironically pits humans and their abilities against devices created to replicate people’s tasks by design. This line of reasoning devalues human emotion, spirituality and wisdom while ignoring our connections to one another and the environment in ways that reduce people’s wellbeing and diminish the full benefit of the machines we’re creating to help society.
The public at large needs reassurance that while all humans have bias or make mistakes, we are not inherently broken in need of fixing. Extended Intelligence is about recognizing our connection to others, the environment and how humans play an integral role in the development of technology rather than being inevitably devalued and replaced by it.
Join Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, Konstantinos Karachalios, Managing Director of the IEEE Standards Association, and CXI Members Andre Uhl, Anja Kasperen, and Chelsea Barabas on July 17th to learn more about the recently launched Council on Extended Intelligence. Comprised of multiple global thought leaders partnering to provide a pragmatic vision for the algorithmic age, CXI is working to move society beyond the “us versus them” narrative pervasive in media pitting humans against artificial intelligence and machines to transform reductionist thinking of the past to prepare for a flourishing future.