Join a Discussion: We Should Focus on Human Intelligence, as We Invest in Artificial Intelligence

By day, Pat Scannell is a professional technologist, who has spent a 25+ year career commercializing disruptive technologies into mass market adoption, and he has done this in domains ranging from Internet, Mobile, IoT and Defense. By night, he researches and writes about the cumulative effects of technology in humans, specifically the effects on how we think, now and in the future. In this article, Pat summarizes the results of his findings and invites those interested in discussing the issues in-depth to join the dialog.


By Pat Scannell

For every dollar and every minute we invest in improving AI, we would be wise to invest a dollar and a minute in exploring and developing human consciousness” – Yuval Harari

As CES wraps up, it’s clear that the Artificial Intelligence hype is peaking, from self-driving cars, business decision software, and even the AI powered cat litter box.

But what about human intelligence?

Our tech and our industries are going to become disrupted by the ever-accelerating technology around us, but what if our thoughts will be, too? It’s clear from the various research projects looking at the future of work that we humans will need to focus on different skills in the future to remain relevant in the workforce, but what if there are more fundamental changes afoot? What if we need to be thinking about how humans think in the future – not just from a productivity or economic perspective, but holistically? After all, what are you going to do with your excess time and cognitive resources when your car drives itself, and the litter box cleans up automatically?

This topic has been the focus of my attention and personal research over the last five plus years, and I have to say that not only are we not at a 1:1 on Harari’s ratio, it feels like we are at something like 100:1, or worse, especially as it comes to the ratio of attention and investment on the future of AI compared to that on the future of human consciousness.

To understand what we need to do about the future of human cognition in the technology filled world of tomorrow, we first need to understand why we interact with technology the way we do today.

I recently had a chance to keynote an inter-disciplinary “Data” workshop, at Arizona State University. This academic setting allowed me to expand on themes I introduced in my 2017 and 2018 TED talks. In the ASU talk I try to articulate my concerns and research focus within this crazy tech world we live in.

My central point is that the technology whirlwind around us today is not driven by something inherent in technology itself, nor unethical technology companies (with all due respect to the great work being done by Tristan Harris and others), or inadequate government regulation, but us – the people who are engaging with and consuming the technology.

Right now I’m hard at work on a series of books about how technology has been co-evolving with cognition over human history, and I am seeking to get input from others on the issues below:

  • What do you think of the ASU talk (30 minutes long)? I’d appreciate any constructive feedback, especially on how I can improve on it. 
  • Who do you know that is working on the human side of the equation? I highly recommend Carl Pabo’s work on humanity2050.org for those that are interested in building out a similar map. I’d also love to find more people that are working on this, and find out the ratio is more balanced than I currently perceive.
  • How do we crystallize this issue, and raise some discussions? How do we apply our respective and collective cognition to this issue? We don’t need a million followers, nor to have the kind of exposure Tristan Harris or Yuval Harari have gotten. By my guesstimate, there are maybe 2,000 people out there who could potentially join the discussion and share their thoughts. I would appreciate any help with finding those people, let’s find those who would join the dialog.

This article is an excerpt from a slightly longer article originally posted on LinkedIn.

If you would like to join the discussion or share your thoughts about the matter with Pat, please email him at pat@futureofthought.org .


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