Decoding Not Encoding

By Nitzan on January 22, 2019 — 1 min read

So much has been written about how AI affect the human condition. Will we be replaced or augmented? Is the human race about to benefit from or be destroyed by these autonomous tools? This is only half of the narrative.

New tools are nothing but new mirrors, they force us to go into vulnerable places in our psyche. They ask for our agency, and when we can’t deliver they ask why.

Intelligence, worldview, biases, self fulfillment, and moments of happiness are some of what aggregates into the human condition. Without a clear understanding of the world inside our head we can never make sense of a world of technological abundance.

But currently the field of AI is being overtaken rationalists approaches. Reducing the human condition to a set of deterministic if–then statements. By ignoring the behavioral nature of people, scientists are policing complex social phenomena into shallow linear buckets.

Ironically, the pursuit to encode the human condition in its entirety into an algorithm is driven by the enlightenment. The self empowerment given to us in Kant’s writings has morphed into a belief that nature (including us within it) could be tamed into a singular universal formulas.

It is clear to anyone who ever gone to a therapist that the human condition is nothing but universal. We live in a reality of our fashioning, instantiated in our own head, cushioned by our ambitions and biases.

We decode mundane reality into a mesh of meanings. Unpacking every day events into poetry, fears, aspiration and connections.

Under a lens of complexity science, meaning is the most emergent property of life.

A body language gesture to ease the tension from a comment you just made a moment ago, the emphasis a speaker will give to the vowel of their final point when she sees the room light up, or everyday moments of unplanned human connection.

Those instances are deeply interconnected, highly complex in their make up and impossible to scientifically model. Rather than focusing on finding a formula for the entire system (as technologists would) we should instead respect the interconnectedness and nurture our agency within it.

How can AI and advanced technologies enable our agency, how can we design systems that enable agency without telling people what they want.

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