Thursday, June 6, 2024

Using AI without losing control

As AI becomes increasingly capable of performing tasks that were once the exclusive domain of humans, it no longer makes sense to spend  a lot of time teaching skills that AI can do better and faster. Just as we largely replaced the teaching of manual drafting with computer-aided design (CAD), we must now reassess the curriculum and remove skills that have been rendered obsolete by AI.

The way we define curriculum reflects our understanding of what it means to be human, a definition that has evolved significantly over the centuries. As machines have become more advanced, skills previously valued and developed by humans have gradually been entrusted to machines.

However, the logic behind this shift is also changing. It is no longer just a matter of what machines can do better, as they seem to be excelling at almost everything. Instead, it is about what we, as humans, choose to retain, enjoy, and feel compelled to do. It is less about competition with machines and more about the arrangement of power and authority. To maintain our human authority, we must continue to perform certain tasks.

One of the most important of these tasks is the ability to set goals and make value judgments about what should or should not be done. This is a complex skill that requires a comprehensive understanding of the world, both in its physical and social aspects, as well as the wisdom to make decisions when faced with competing values and the inherent uncertainty of the future. As AI increasingly mediates our interactions, the ability to determine the goals and direction of these interactions becomes even more crucial.

Equally important is the ability to work with AI to achieve our objectives. This process, sometimes referred to as "prompt engineering," involves iterative interaction and refinement to obtain the most accurate, appropriate, and helpful outputs from AI. Beyond technical skills, this requires robust critical thinking to assess the truthfulness and value of AI-generated content. In essence, it is the skill of editing, not merely for style but for substance, constantly asking: Is this useful? Does it improve upon what already exists? Does it positively contribute to the overall human knowledge and well-being?

These core competencies should shape the curriculum of the future: goal-setting, value judgment, critical discernment, and the ability to collaborate with AI to achieve human objectives. The specifics will evolve as AI capabilities advance, and there will be variations across disciplines.

However, the fundamental challenge remains the same: in a world increasingly shaped by artificial intelligence, we must rededicate ourselves to cultivating human intelligence in its fullest and most distinctively human expressions. Only then can we ensure that the tremendous power of AI serves to elevate humanity rather than diminish it.

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