The announced rapid development of artificial intelligence is increasingly worrying "connected" discussion circles. Will robots animated - that's the term - by artificial intelligence supplant humans? The answer is likely to be yes, if we continue to ignore the fact that the current trend to dumb down and enslave humans with connected objects amplifies the ongoing anthropological disintegration, which I call "Planet of the Apes Syndrome.".
En fact, are we prepared to understand and live with artificial intelligence? If we approach this question as we did with animal intelligences, certainly not. Anthropocentric, dualistic and hierarchical Western thought perpetuates a harmful work of degradation and elimination of animals, but also by locking itself up, as the expression of Claude Lévi-StraussThe aim is to focus on the white male male and master of techniques in an increasingly narrow and exclusive (pseudo)humanism. In other words, the engineer at the pinnacle of evolution, who ends up taking himself for a demiurge, in turn dazzled by his own creations.
A desperate vision of the evolution from despised animals to revered robots (read more). Blaise Pascal)
Understanding the intelligences
The problem does not come from animals or machines, but simply from a distressing epistemology of the lack of understanding of the different forms of intelligence. First of all, it is necessary to get rid of overly simplistic formulations such as "animal intelligence" and "artificial intelligence" to speak of "animal intelligences" and "artificial intelligences"; to get out of the ruts of metaphysics to enter the world still so poorly known to all intelligences.
So, from an evolutionary point of view, are we engaged in a new "covolution"? Are digital artifacts and their environments since the extension of the web and connected objects opening a new period in our evolution?
The opening of Yuval Noah Harari's book, Homo deusThis is a perfect reminder of the threshold that humanity is about to cross. Modern humanity, now post-modern, has almost eradicated three scourges: famines, epidemics and wars. Today, the main causes of mortality are due to the excesses of our modern lifestyles, and even our comforts: abundance of food (junk food), pollution and sedentary lifestyle. Progress has almost solved the misfortunes that have plagued humanity since its origins.
Why not enjoy unlimited reading of UP'? Subscribe from €1.90 per week.
In fact, one example is enough to demonstrate the irrationality of our times: security anxiety. There have never been so many of us on Earth, and there have never been so few victims of homicides through conflict, terrorism and all forms of murder (and if we were talking about the hundreds of thousands of women killed by their spouses around the world, or the deaths in traffic...) In fact, we are living in a formidable era undermined by the merchants of fear.
Robots and us
We're told that robots and AI are going to take our jobs. Wrong! There's never been so much work. It's the tasks within the jobs that are changing. All manual and intellectual tasks that are repetitive, standardized, automatable, normed... in a word, predefined, are already performed more efficiently by algorithms (cf. Beretti and Bloch, Homo numericus at work ; Charles-Édouard Boué and François Roche, The Fall of the Human Empire).
Suffice it to note that the countries with the most robotic industries have twice as many jobs in the sectors concerned, corresponding to a proportionate share of GDP. While some areas of activity are globally more affected than others - the least skilled and most routine - no one knows whether this fourth industrial revolution will be the subject of a Schumpeterian spill like the previous ones or not.
We are told to fear killer robots and drones. From petitions are circulating with illustrious signatures (Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Elon Musk…). For some, AI would represent the worst danger for the future of the human species. The consortium Partnership on AI aims to evaluate and control possible drifts. But, at the moment, opinions differ.
AI versus human intelligence
We're being told that AI will supplant human intelligence. That's completely untrue. Human intelligence is the result of a very long environmental and social evolution, which is not the case with robots. Our brain and its parts have a very high degree of plasticity. Many of our cognitive abilities, such as creativity, appear to be related to various physical and physiological functions of our bodies. The locomotion and feeding of robots being what it is, we have a tremendous head start.
However, AI is outperforming humans in many areas, such as the processing of huge volumes of data and the ability to bring out information that may have a meaning that is currently only available to humans.
However, there is no doubt that the convergence of nanotechnologies, biology (especially synthetic biology), computer science (or digital science) and cognitive sciences, which is no longer announced but is under way, will change our human conditions as it is already doing for the disabled.
The fact that disabled athletes can compete and soon surpass the performance of "normal" athletes (even doped) opens up dizzying prospects. Are they the first transhumans? A fine example of Darwinian evolution: innovation always comes from the most unusual diversities...
Pascal Picq, "Who is going to take power? the great apes, politicians or robots", Odile Jacob, May 2017.
Pascal Picqa paleoanthropologist and lecturer, Collège de France
To fight against disinformation and to favour analyses that decipher the news, join the circle of UP' subscribers.