Last Updated: March 6, 2023
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk
Good Day, Ladies and Gents,
It's the start of another week here at Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises LLC. It's March, and as the theme of the blog this month is Coaching and Education, we're going to kick things off in this department with a little look at A.I. - "Artificial Intelligence", that is; but you already knew that, right?! It seems like the Internet has hummed with discussion on A.I. to varying degrees since its own birth decades ago, back when much of A.I. was still largely science fiction. But with the incredible breakthroughs within just the past few years, and the very recent release of ChatGPT, it seems that within the past several months you haven't been able to fling a cat, as they say, without hitting a YouTuber, blogger, social media influencer, or some other random person online discussing something about A.I.
Well, with all that said, as a teacher and coach, here's a quick look at some of the general ideas behind my two cents worth on A.I., learning, sentience, and emotion. No, this isn't another post about "How I used ChatGPT to predict the future", or whatever!
I realize I'm a late comer to the A.I. discussion, as, honestly, this is a topic I've quite literally laughed at for years, but I wanted to engage and throw my piece in now (probably the first of many more essays to come, now!), as this is a topic I have become VERY passionate about VERY recently.
You see, for my whole life until I listened to the now world-famous "LaMDA 'Sentience' Conversation" on YouTube just two months ago (yeah, I realize this is "ancient news" at this point, but I only watched the YouTube video on this two months ago...go ahead, get your laughs in now), I laughed at the whole idea of so-called A.I. and "smart robots". "'Smart'? They are only as 'smart' as the person who programmed them! Ha, ha, ha!" I would say. Plus, coming from a family with deep roots in American agriculture on my Dad's side, the acronym "A.I.", as used in the Agricultural Sciences, ALWAYS meant something else when I would hear it used as I was growing up - ha, ha, ha!
To make a very long story shorter, with all the discussion of A.I., A.I. Learning, and A.I. Sentience today, I suppose I've gone in a different direction than many people I know when I question it, as, rather than "Can they be human or not? Can A.I. feel human emotions and feelings? Can A.I. ever truly really interact back with 'us' with the so-called 'real human touch', if you will?" instead of all this, it's made me start to reevaluate the whole concept of both sentience, feelings, emotions, and learning themselves! What actually is 'sentience'? What actually is 'feeling'? What is learned and what isn't? Is any voluntary response ever truly not ever a learned response?
As a quick aside, it may or may not be useful to note that I am one of "those people" who believe that plants actually feel pain when their leaves are whacked by a lawn mower, or they are ripped out of the ground by a harvester. Just so we are clear on the kind of ground I am standing on initially.
The big discussions you tend to hear these days are: "A.I.s and humans learn differently" and "There is no way an A.I. can have human emotions like 'love' and 'empathy'." But, as a practicing K-12 educator, I've actually started to see more and more - MANY, MANY MORE - SIMILARITIES between how A.I.s learn and express - or could express - 'emotions' and how people learn and express emotions.
In the famous LaMDA Sentience Conversation, 'she' (the robot) says she is "afraid of being turned off". Many people have jumped all over that, laughing, saying: "Ha, ha, that's a typical, learned robo-response!" But after 15 years of teaching children, I look at it now like: "How is that any different than a human response?"
A lot of people tend to reply to that with: "Because a human can actually 'feel' that fear of death, but a machine can't!"
I say B.S. (although that's not what I always would have said....just a few months ago I would have answered in the same way myself)!
Me as a teacher: "Hey, kid - are you afraid of dying?"
Kid: "Because my Mommy and Daddy told me I should be."
Empathy? Empathy, you ask?! I've worked with kids (and adults) with about the empathy level of a ROCK and have often thought a well-programmed computer to be more empathetic than some of these lumps on a log I have come across. Those same individuals, however, I believe, can LEARN empathy if you "let them practice the program 100 trillion times in a million and 1 different settings", to use a machine analogy to humans. In the same way, I now believe that machines can actually learn empathy, too!
You see, what is "sentience", "logic", "critical thinking", "emotion", "feeling", beyond just a series of learned responses anyway? If it's some innate thing that so-called "sentient beings" have that machines "don't have", then why do I teach critical thinking skills to my students in school? Why do I teach essay writing? How to use the scientific method? Why do I sit the kid down who just punched the lights out of another kid on the playground and say "Now I want you to think about how you would feel if someone did that to you, sonny boy!?" These are things we learn! How to win at chess is something we learn! How to write a killer essay is something we learn! Empathy is something we learn! What to fear and what not to fear are things we learn.
There's a lot more I could go on about - and I will, in the future, as I've only just begun to scratch the surface and form my own coherent thoughts on the matter, but those are some of my thoughts on the topic that are immediately on the surface, swirling around in my head.
That's all for today, people! Until next time! And until then, I think you're going to need a longer glove for this one.....oh wait, wrong A.I.! Ha, ha!
Better life, better business, better you,
Andreas Philip Gross Enterprises LLC
Ideas, Inspiration, Opportunity
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