Disruptive for Sure… But How Liberating Could AI Also Be?

Artificial Intelligence or AI. It’s been impacting our work and lives for decades now without us paying too much attention. Recently, though, the topic has taken on a whole new life force. This is, in part, due to the wide spread accessibility of programs like ChatGPT, BingChat and Bard. Reports have been surfacing of application in a broad range of sectors from health care to architecture to the arts. Big tech CEOs have issued warnings about the disruptive nature of these new AI applications, calling for regulation – which is a first and what caused us to begin to pay attention.

As we experimented with prompts and were amazed, then alarmed and then intrigued, by what was created almost instantaneously, we became more curious, especially about the impact on our worldviews.  We invited people from around the world to explore the question of how disruptive might these new generations of AI be on our worldviews – globally, professionally and personally?

The conversations were thought-provoking for all us. There are so many unknowns as we look to the future. But, what do we know about technology, the past and the future? More than we think.

AI Concerns

Concerns about privacy were identified, but it was also noted how much our phones, laptops, TVs and interactive assistants (think Alexa and Siri) already know about us and our movements. Yes, we should be aware of the risks to how information and, thus our worldviews, can be manipulated. There is wariness about who the “human-in-the-loop” is, who is feeding information and prompts into  AI software and what their motives are. However, we are also “humans-in-the-loop” and we do have agency.

There was also a concern about access to the technology. A digital divide already exists that shows up in our schools, more remote communities, in communities that experience poverty and in countries that have limited or no access. This digital divide includes lack of knowledge or skill in using technology as is the case for many elderly people.

Finally, if information can be used to narrow our worldviews, as individuals we can be cognizant of requesting information to broaden our information sources, perspectives and worldviews.

The more interesting conversations were around how much obsolescence we have already experienced, literally over centuries, and how liberating AI can be, when we embrace it.

AI Opportunities

It is definitely possible that AI will make some jobs obsolete. However, we have been experiencing obsolescence in one form or another since before the most rudimentary plows were created, to the printing press, the steam engine, cars, computers, ATMs, cell phones and more. Every time, alarm bells are rung. However, often roles and tasks change and adapt into something new or different. The jobs most at risk have just one task that could be replicated by technology. Most other roles are more likely to be redefined with some having a broader scope.

Myrna Peterson, Advocate Extraordinaire, Force to be Reckoned With and Personal Friend

The most expansive conversation was around how liberating new technologies can be. Our celebrated friend, Myrna Peterson (watch the video), who has been a quadriplegic for over 25 years due to an accident, described how excited she is for the possibilities that new technologies offer to her. ChatGPT prompts to draft letters is faster than voice recognition can do. A force to be reckoned with, Myrna is one of the inspirations behind a mobility project in Grand Rapids, MN. This goMarti pilot project has four self-driving vehicles in the community and it is part of a research project to assess the impact. For Myrna, it means she no longer has to wait for someone to drive her somewhere, she can access one of the self-driving cars through the app. What could this mean for others who don’t want to, can’t or can no longer drive, like seniors? What increased levels of independence will it offer people?

And, as many in our conversations noted, what proportion of our time can be freed up from tasks like house cleaning or mowing the lawn, that can be redirected to whatever essence it is that makes us uniquely human?

When we move the conversation beyond the binary of, is it good or is it bad, whole new worlds emerge for exploration.