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Does AI Make People More or Less Intelligent?

Technology has both positive and negative effects on our growth as a society.

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BY Young Entrepreneur Council - 31 May 2018

Does AI Make People More or Less Intelligent?

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

By Adrien Schmidt, CEO of Bouquet and Co-Founder of Squid Solutions.

People often ask me: Does artificial intelligence make people more or less intelligent? It's actually a pretty smart question. Sure, the obvious answer is "more" because you'd assume that anything that serves up all the answers you could ever need will only make you smarter. But there is also the great possibility that by leaning on AI too heavily, we'll lose certain skill sets and only get dumber. Does AI have the power to be so ubiquitous that we'll all wind up dumb and, indeed, dumber? It's already begun to sweep over us -- with everything from Siri to Alexa, from self-driving cars to online shopping -- and we're starting to look at moving through life on autopilot.

First, let's consider everything that AI has brought to our lives. It is changing the world of medicine. According to CNBC, it's helping doctors recognize cancerous tumors. AI's algorithms have also changed how we shop and how we eat, serving up choices and options like hot dinners. We'll have predictive policing and robot teachers -- the list is endless. With AI doing many of our menial jobs, we'll be freed up to concentrate on things like creativity and relationship-building. I created an AI chatbot that helps enterprises sort through data utilizing chatbot technology to bring information to people's fingertips in mere milliseconds. In my mind, AI is an extension of humanity and is helping to exceed our own limitations and capabilities of memory.

When we are exposed to such a vast ocean of information that speeds by us, our brains need to work faster to keep up, making us more intelligent. This theory is known as The Flynn Effect. And in addition to proper nutrition and elevated public health, it speaks to why human intelligence increases with every subsequent generation. AI will contribute to this theory in perpetuating the speed at which we are capable of digesting information. However, there are cases against the increase of data flow and information speed that makes people more inhibited to make decisions. And when they are forced to choose without the aid of information, they make more mistakes. A University at Albany study of 78 primary care physicians showed that software "diminished doctors' ability to make informed decisions about diagnosis and treatment." Not what you want to hear if you're on the operating table when the internet goes down.

Another study from Fairfield University spoke to a similar problem -- showing that "if participants took a photo of each object as a whole, they remembered fewer objects and remembered fewer details about the objects and the objects' locations in the museum than if they instead only observed the objects and did not photograph them." Clearly, if we have a way to store information, our memories decide to rely on where it's stored rather than what is being stored.

So what would happen if AI disappeared overnight? According to the BBC, in 1995, fewer than 1% of the world was on the internet (amazing to think that, for a very brief moment at least, I was a member of the 1%). Twenty years later, there are now over 3.5 billion people who are connected -- that's almost half of the human race!

It almost doesn't bear thinking about, but internet elimination could happen. Think about it. Cyberattacks are one method to disable the web -- if routers are brought down and/or domain name servers, so goes the net. There's also the frightening possibility of someone cutting the deep-sea cables. There are other ways to turn off the internet too. Some governments have kill-switches, and large solar storms send off flares that could destroy satellites, power grids and computer systems.

What would happen to humanity? Other than disruptions to economies, etc., would we become dumber without AI in our lives? Well, you tell me how you'd navigate to your new friend's house without Google maps. You tell me how you'd conduct research for that all-important paper. How would you find the recipe for that new dish?

Sure, there are books. But my point is this: How much have you retained of what you've learned from your years of using AI? Would we revert back to Luddites?

Only time will tell all the effects of AI -- but we're going to need to stay on top of it if we're going to move forward as a species.

Adrien Schmidt, CEO of Bouquet and Co-Founder of Squid Solutions, is a successful entrepreneur, engineer, and innovator.

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