Humans vs. Robots

Jaime Bancroft Gennaro

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If Google search trends are any indication, we're all worried about it. What happens when we develop AI that is smarter than us? "AI takeover" is a page on Wikipedia. Robophobia was a term coined in an audio version of Doctor Who from 2011. In an interview with the BBC, Stephen Hawking was quoted as saying, "A.I. poses no threat to the human race today but could in the future as machines -- specifically robots -- become smarter, bigger and stronger than their human developers."

Why are we so scared of robots?

We see something of ourselves in them. Of course we do, they were born of us. Their limitation is their need to be more like us. Our limitation is our need to become more like them.

It's a thing, humans being bred to be automatons. Ok, it's not a documented "thing" but we see it all around us. It's becoming the social norm. In the quest for more money and more power, we have become more robotic. And in the battle, if we become more like robots, humans lose.

We will only win the battle by being more human. So what does it mean to be human?

Yes, we're bipeds and we know how to make fire, the primary distinction between ourselves and our evolutionary ape mates,

"Now don't try to kid me, mancub
I made a deal with you
What I desire is man's red fire
To make my dream come true
Now give me the secret, mancub
Come on, clue me what to do
Give me the power of man's red fire
So I can be like you."
-Richard and Robert Sherman, The Jungle Book

The ability to make fire won't be the differentiator this time around as Robots don't need to eat. So what will be the distinction between ourselves and the more evolved brains of Artificial Intelligence? Will humans learn to program AI to function the way our neocortex, prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, function? The parts of our brains which enable high levels of abstract reasoning, language, problem solving, sociality, and culture through social learning? Yes, yes we will.

In my opinion, the great differentiator, is what lies above our brainstem, in our limbic system. Many parts to this system help the human body operate, but the part that fascinates me is the Amygdalae. This area of the brain prepares us for emergency situations. It stores memories that will help us remember if we need to fight or flight. Memories with emotional connections are stored here, the deeper the emotion, the longer lasting the memory. It's also where sits our anxieties, our depression, our mood disorders. When damaged, it affects the way we love our infants. It reacts to testosterone and estrogen in different ways and grows more slowly in men than in women. The size of the Amygdalae is associated with political thought as well, a study published by Current Biology showed, "greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala."

This part of our brain influences the way we love.

You might think, it's not really appropriate to write about love in the context of business and leadership, entrepreneurship, the economy, and the election But this is how we will win the battle.

Love is what makes me human. It's what differentiates me from AI, from the need to win the technology race, from the masses. If we weren't afraid to express it, to talk about it, in all contexts, then we would win. If we loved each other and loved the Earth, we would win. Now, when I see examples of people expressing themselves, their appreciation for each other, their recognition of the Amygdalae, I say to myself, "Humans Win."


Jaime Bancroft Gennaro is the CEO of Neologic, a digital experience agency with an imagination lab. Neologic is proud of their two in-house projects: Cornbread App and Poetry for Robots @jaimegennaro @neologicpdx

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