Will these AI tools eventually farm out your thought & will to machine processes?


EXCERPT: . . . In simpler times, you would need to go to the hassle of using valuable seconds to type out “thank you very much” or “that sounds great” all by yourself. But now, email systems like Gmail can finish sentences for you. This feature is powered by a form of artificial intelligence known as natural language processing, which aims to understand and use language in ways that are more human-like than computers have managed before.

But while it can help to reduce the amount of time spent composing an email, many people have mixed feelings about the autocomplete feature, known as Smart Compose, with some describing its ability to scan our messages and come up with a suitable response as downright “creepy”.

With machines starting to take over some of the art of composing messages to our colleagues, friends and loved ones, does this also risk robbing us of something more important? Are they sucking away our individuality and the joy of human interaction? And could these autocomplete technologies even be changing the way our brains work?

“Prediction is fundamental to our perception and our relation with the world,” says Maria Geffen, who studies neuronal circuits for auditory perception and learning at the University of Pennsylvania. “Our brain is constantly making predictions. For example, when we're listening to someone talk against a loud background noise, we're making predictions for what the phrase was that they uttered even if we only heard a subset of sounds. This is also true for more complex cognitive tasks, including producing a sentence.”

Writing – both by hand and on a computer – involves a complex coordination of cognitive processes, including the use of long-term memory, the semantic system, working memory and planning. But if we subcontract the work of composing our sentences to a machine, Geffen argues that it could have some profound implications for the way our brains work.

“We are doing experiments now in which we are tracking the activity of neurons that represent sounds in the brain over days, and finding that the same ensembles of neurons exhibit varying patterns of activity from day to day,” she says. “So, it is very interesting to think about what happens, when, on one hand, prediction is performed for us not by our brain but by a computer algorithm, and how this repeated experience affects our interaction with the world.” (MORE - details)

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