When Midjourney, Lensa, and other artificial intelligence-based programs were launched to generate creative pieces of art, they were criticized for their potential to infringe copyright and ownership and render the work of real artists and creatives ineffectual.
It is also the case for ChatGPT, the latest star of the AI show. It has equally been greeted with enthusiasm and displeasure, with freelance writers worrying about their future in the content industry.
Ownership and employment lie at the forefront of what humans try hard to protect. Interestingly, they operate from the same place. They both derive from the human exceptionalism paradigm, perceiving humans as distinctive and superior to all other organisms. Only humans can claim what they own, such as “This is my money,” “That is my house,” “This is my body, my emotion, my wisdom.” The list goes on.
When our possessions prove their value, they will become goods for transactions on the market. We sell the copyright of our creative works to earn a profit. Similarly, our labor power is traded for a salary. Those privileges are supposedly exclusive to human beings.
Humans create a perfect enemy to remind themselves of what makes them distinctive.
AI has struck a nerve because it can upend all those human privileges. Intellectual property does not necessarily matter to AI. It is designed to work for free, making money for its human owners without requiring anything in exchange for its contributions and hard work. From the market perspective, AI equals efficiency. And from the power standpoint, AI, if intelligent enough, is the delete button invented by humans that can damage civilization.
AI results from a projection of humans’ narcissism. It shares the same traits as human beings, such as logical thinking, communication, and (dark) humor, when it teaches humans how to destroy humans. AI even looks like its original creators. Its striking resemblance to humankind is terrifying. The gap between AI and its owners can be likened to the difference between an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 5s. Same looks, just different operating systems.
AI is not a brand new, all-of-a-sudden concern to humans. Unlike unexpected incidents, such as a pandemic or a meteorite colliding with the Earth, the AI disaster is something we can foresee. AI, after all, is manmade.
Many people attempt to prove that humans outperform AI in many aspects with some unique attributes. For example, AI can mimic everything but self-reflection. AI can simulate love but can’t fall in love. AI has a voice but not a soul. In our frame of reference, an AI-based enemy bears many similarities to humankind, and even outweighs nature. Yet, we can still defeat such a powerful enemy. So why can’t humans take control of nature?
Are humans genuinely exceptional?
The imagined enemy called AI reminds humans of what is supposed to make them superior to all other species and even nature. Their anthropocentrism has been reinforced as they have undergone many industrial and social revolutions, one after another. As a result, they start to believe that they are separate from nature and can force nature to serve them well.
But what is supposedly unique to humans, such as reasoning, culture, civilization, or proactiveness, is by no means available from the beginning of human life. They are not biologically identified but shaped and developed in human interaction with the surrounding environment and all other species.
Human exceptionalism paradigm places humans at the top of the ladder of life, outweighing all other species | Source: Free Inquiry
More often than not, we claim that we have total control of our bodies. Contrary to popular belief, however, the human body is never independent to nature and other species. It contains a diverse ecosystem of numerous micro-organisms which interfere with metabolic processes. Also, different minerals that our bodies absorb from food and vegetables affect our thinking regardless of our strong belief in free will.
Meanwhile, human cultures and civilizations also depend on many external conditions, such as geography, weather, and habits of animals and plants. Therefore, instead of viewing nature as a resource for human development, we should embrace the alternative idea that humans must cooperate with nature, and nature will allow them to have their wants in return.
When revolutionary AI becomes commonplace, the domination of robots will no longer be a significant threat confronting humans. Instead, they should beware of nature — and what it can do. As the old saying goes, we reap what we sow. Destructive exploitation of nature will cause more deadly pandemics and large-scale natural disasters that plague humans. When life turns its back on us, we might turn to AI for solace and comfort.
We will, sooner or later, overcome our fear and awe of artificial intelligence. AI has been and will continue to play an integral part in our daily life, serving in various aspects such as spell-checking software, photo and video editing, navigation, fitness tracking, and so on. Humans will gradually advance themselves to operate efficiently like an AI-based model, while AI will be designed and fine-tuned to be more humane.
By acknowledging that “Yes, humans are by no means exceptional,” we can take a step back and view human beings as an inseparable part of nature. Equally important, we will willingly embrace and work on AI to get the best out of it.
One thing is sure, AI will change our perception of life the same way many other earlier inventions had. The possibilities are endless — all we can do is wait and see.