Academic Minute Podcast

Nir Eisikovits, UMass Boston – A.I. and Everyday

A.I. is now a part of our daily lives.

Nir Eisikovits, professor of philosophy and founding director of the Applied Ethics Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston, considers the impacts.

Nir Eisikovits is professor of philosophy and founding director of the Applied Ethics Center at UMass Boston. Professor Eisikovits’ research focuses on the moral and political dilemmas arising after war, the culture of war and the ethics of technology.

A.I. and Everyday Life

Artificial intelligence is quickly transforming the entertainment, business and government sectors. From algorithmic viewing suggestions on Netflix to sentencing recommendations – there’s hardly an area of our lives that isn’t impacted.

This trend has raised concerns about data privacy, safety, and even the entrenchment of social biases. But I would like to talk about something else: how living with AI changes our sense of ourselves – how it is transforming what it means to be human.

Take our ability to make every-day practical judgements at work: who to hire, who to fire, whether to approve a loan. These judgements are gradually being automated. But having good judgment – the ability to weigh particulars and reach a decision that balances them well – is an acquired skill; it’s like exercise: you either use it or lose it. Are we automating ourselves out of the ability to make good judgements?

Or take our appreciation for serendipity – things that happen by chance and come to mean a lot in our lives. Accidentally finding a book, a beautiful road, a weird show – can open up exciting possibilities. Indeed, we often trace important developments in our lives to these serendipitous encounters. But the point of recommendation engines – like the ones that suggest what show we should binge on next – is to eliminate chance and its inherent inefficiency. What happens to serendipity in a world that runs on AI?

Finally think about ChatGPT – the system that will write a paper or create an image based on a description you give it. That’s exciting and can save a lot of time. But it what does it mean for creativity? Is being creative the same as describing an idea and letting a machine do the tedious work of realizing it? Or is that tedious work somehow inherently valuable?

These are big questions. We shouldn’t let our excitement about AI blind us to their importance. We shouldn’t innovate ourselves into something we can’t recognize without thinking them through.


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