Do Androids Dream of Circuit Veins

Austin Hu ‘19

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*Initiate system: perfection*


It is with great pride that companies like IBM, Tesla, and Amazon, and Cogito advertise their products of progress: Artificial Intelligence (AI). “Alexa turn off those lights”. “Deep Blue, what are my chances of winning with knight to C4?” “Hi Cogito, I know you have been kind of sick lately, but I wanted to talk about my steering wheel malfunction the other day”. Whether or not the customer is satisfied with their response (as if Alexa could say no), the interaction between a human and a modern machine undermines a key aspect of “living” experience. Though such complex machines have educational and analytical advantages, a CPU can never replace the human heart, and a motherboard can never replace the human mind. People need warmth to feel just as they need human faces to see and mouths to talk to.


Advanced Artificial Intelligence is without a doubt a tribute to mankind’s progress and ingenuity. It presents new, efficient ways to approach and solve problems. Education, for example, benefits greatly from AI development. Duolingo is one such industry that is embraced by AI teaching. Duolingo is a language app that mimics and supplements teacher agendas through online grading and speaking. The system is based on a point-reward mechanism that provides on-the-spot answer corrections. Especially in one on one tutoring services, programs like Duolingo act as aids to engage online learning. With progress checks that adapt to the student’s performance, Duolingo shapes itself to cater individual speeds and questions. This method strategically accounts for the inability of a teacher to constantly adapt and tend to an individual student’s needs. Duolingo is always there, waving its “help me reply” button to keep that “streak” going. Effectively, AI education programs offer quick, standard answers to questions, and they do so without time constraints. When a teacher is not present in person, the AI can address the student’s urgency and convenience. However, in education, one must consider the different ways of learning. Take a strategy that private schools are adopting: the student seminar style. While AI can progressively adapt to a student’s learning style and accommodate for strengths and weaknesses, it cannot mimic the wild, unbound thoughts communicated through student interaction. AI learning systems provide a standard core curriculum, but fail to compensate for the educational abnormalities of a human classroom environment (not to mention the fact that, there is NO environment in cyberspace). A program can be installed with challenge questions and real-world applications, but its database will not encompass the infinity that is a peer’s mind. There is no exchange of “right or wrong”, nor is there the sprinkle of human sympathy in AI learning. Indeed, a student resting in bed may learn Latin grammar mechanics from a robot, but put that student in a classroom filled with adolescent minds and she may struggle. A “USA Today” study finds that 78% of over 1000 university students surveyed preferred classroom learning to online learning, as the students wanted to see “more interaction somehow” (Karambelas 1). These students reported they would rather listen to the professor and engage through connected podcasts as opposed to reading articles and posting research online. There is a lack of “classroom intuition” and communication, traits bred only well, in a classroom. This aspect of human learning comes through advice and reactions from society. Think about the astounding cases of feral children. Humans raised with animals will inevitably develop a different personality than if they were raised with other humans. AI is one level lower, as animals still teach concepts like instinct and intuition, whereas robots follow a mechanized agenda.

Thank the ex machina for the creation of little robots that can probe human feelings. Such is the product of behavioural science, an adaptive program in cars and Cogito’s automated call centers to evaluate human decisions in the moment. The misconception with behavioural science programs is the difference between Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Intelligence. In the field of human-like call responders and programmed sensors, Augmented Intelligence adds to the already existing human cognition. In an attempt to mimic the perfect human who can flawlessly detect discomfort or agitation (well satisfaction too but that is rare with call centers), call center robots seek to fill inconsistencies of teleresponse jobs. Machines like Cogito can avoid human error such as forgetting the customer and going silent for too long, speaking too quickly, speaking too quietly, speaking with lethargic energy, or speaking continuously and ignoring customer engagement. As with self-driving cars and drunk accidents, AI cannot make human errors if they are not human. Programmed to specifically avoid and detect indicators of alarming conditions, behavioural AI strives to perfect communication, but only with robots. One can envision a neanderthal conversing (or attempting to) in his dimly-lit cave with a man with an iPhone. After years of talking with the caveman, the modern man returns to his time and realizes he can no longer accept how others react. He cannot fully understand the feelings of others in his age and cannot sympathize or share ideas effectively. AI communication walks on the same rope. Particularly dealing with young children, robots like Kaspar (a robot that is therapeutic for autism) threaten effective human to human communication. Under the focused influence of a robot rather than a nurturing teacher, children become more attuned to automated responses rather than real society. Effectively, humans exposed to automated absolution of communication with AI  will lose proficiency in speaking with each other. Perfect signal detection changes the expectations of society to the point where agitation thresholds and satisfaction thresholds increase. A robot-nurtured homo sapien will turn into a homo machina, only able to process perfection without exposure to the true human experience filled with flaws and failure.


AI learns from humans, but what can humans truly learn from AI? Perhaps we do seek robo-eugenics. Perhaps the future will be written with a program, with the changes made by other programs. AI offers unique approaches to mysteries and solutions to troubling humanistic issues, but rapid development burns the border of the human and AI experience.


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