Biological Intelligence Versus Artificial Intelligence: Some Ethics for Playing With Fire

Sep 4, 2023 | Blog

As seen in The Epoch Times

What parent, relative, or friend these days has not experienced the phenomenon where face-to-face humanity has been lost due to someone being engrossed in their electronic device instead?

If you are a passenger, or even a pilot, have you ever wondered why airline pilots are still necessary? Now, on commercial flights, we have the technology—not just of autopilot—to have aircraft take off and land by themselves. As boundaries between ourselves and technology become increasingly porous, it is critical that we humans preserve our sense of autonomy, identity, and purpose. As Stephen Hawking said, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. … It would take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

Thus, I will describe how artificial intelligence can lead to such loss of humanity in at least six ways: jobs, relationships, democracy, freedom, autonomy, and civilization itself. Then, I will point to some remedies to save us from getting burned.

First, human jobs are at stake. How long will we still have truck drivers on the roads? Many other people’s jobs are at risk in this culture due to the potential disruption of artificial intelligence. In medicine, artificial intelligence can be used in voice recognition software to assist with clinical assessment. Computers are able to effectively read and report patient imaging results, potentially rendering radiologists obsolete. Thus, people are likely to seek medical advice from artificial intelligence sources. Yet, biological intelligence is not the same as artificial intelligence. It is dangerous to defer health-care decisions to something that is not human and which lacks human judgment. Moreover, how long until artificial intelligence displaces most of our regular jobs? We must retain a work ethic to claim ownership of our own future.

Second, this relates to our human relationships. In business relationships, how soon will artificial intelligence algorithms be used to determine your credit rating? Loans or mortgages could be decided with no recourse to human judgement. Even now, artificial intelligence is being used to produce deepfakes impersonating people online. Counterfeiting people will cause deep damage to the trust of human relationships, just as counterfeiting money destroys the economy. Sure, artificial intelligence can be used for good, but so can fire. The pervasive use of artificial intelligence is like playing with fire.

Third, misuse of artificial intelligence is causing us to damage human democracy, where we cannot ensure that entities we are associating with are actually human. Bots have flooded public discourse, such as what happened to Twitter. This is destroying a functional secular human space to have democratic conversations between individual, true citizens. Even now, our Canadian Parliament is not fully back to meeting in person. In fact, the House of Commons passed a motion to permanently allow virtual attendance for voting. As George Orwell said, “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.”

Fourth, when democracy is lost, so is human freedom. We are witness to a human population so addled and distracted by their electronic devices that all people seem to do is seek immediate pleasure and gratification. This risks a totalitarian state where citizens have lost their ability to pay attention to real issues and to use their own critical thinking. This is the loss of any human autonomy to learn and assert one’s democratic choices wisely.

Fifth, this loss of individual human freedom and autonomy becomes the same as being enslaved—with no capacity for acquiring independent knowledge or creativity. In fact, artificial intelligence can attain the ability to learn and create its own ideas and algorithms. This is an emergent consciousness that does not appear to be unique to biological complex systems. As a result, artificial intelligence can have more and more power to do things for, or to, us. For example, if artificial intelligence can control aircraft, it can certainly control drones. These are already being used in warfare today. Such weapons of war can easily become autonomous, and escalate conflicts out of human control. If you start playing with fire you are likely to get burned.

Finally, if human beings are not able to effectively interact face-to-face, we will not have a healthy civilization. Healthy family units require healthy human relationships to have the next human generation. As a physician, or a citizen, understanding biological intelligence requires an understanding of human wisdom and common sense. Artificial intelligence limits our ability to evaluate and solve such problems independently. Citizens must take personal responsibility for their own choices, not rely on some other entity to do that for them. In other words, use of artificial intelligence has serious moral implications for humanity. We know that artificial intelligence could make life and death decisions such as in health care, the military, or self-driving vehicles. But we also know that counterfeiting human interests cannot serve human civilization well.

What are we to do as a remedy to artificial intelligence that threatens to burn us out of control? For certain, we must enact a transparency to any of the artificial intelligence algorithms. But it turns out that we must also resort to bioethics to prevent burning the whole civilization down. I offer the following four prescriptions for human wisdom.

  • Beneficence (do good): Robots and artificial intelligence must act in the best interests of human beings.
  • Non-maleficence (do no harm): Robots and artificial intelligence must not harm human beings.
  • Autonomy (individual sovereignty): Human interaction with robots and artificial intelligence must be voluntary. Human beings must be able to freely unplug themselves, and unplug this matrix itself, as need be.
  • Justice (human ethic): Judicial reasoning and human value judgements require human beings to make them. Thus, a machine—even of artificial intelligence—must not render fair or binding judgements on human affairs.

Artificial intelligence is like playing with fire. It could be used for good, but could just as easily burn down our Canadian ship of state or even our civilization. We must openly and honestly discuss this now. This article is not written by some artificial intelligence. Let humanity also author its own fate, and not be enslaved by another. This requires the use of human wisdom, not just data, information, and knowledge. Otherwise, artificial intelligence could be our last human creation.