Good, Discernment, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

We will all have to sort through the problems that are building around the rise of artificial intelligence. We are approaching a time when we will have to take a more critical look at our own bias relating to coveted intelligence. My postings on this website have thinned out lately because I have had sort out how to address this incredibly fundamental challenge to our age and decision making.

In my work in the field of disability services we had to reexamine what the nature and value of intelligence was in relationship to people who were learning to adapt their lives to brains that processed the world’s input in a different manner. The term learning disability was applied people who struggled with learning beginning in the last part of the 20th century. We chose to call it a disability because we thought we had firmly identified how people learned and what intelligence was. We believed we had a stable standard of intelligence supporting a firm model of learning so any deviation was a problem to be eliminated through therapy or adaptation. We added tools that helped the person with the learning disability adapt to the unyielding standard. It wasn’t until the maturation of the disability movement toward the end of the century did the insight of what is now called neurodiversity begin to penetrate the professional trance. People with disabilities and their families forced the professional world to hold up the old measurable standards of intelligence and learning to the more critical light. A deeper look at the science of how the brain operates, changes, and adapts showed us how people with learning differences can thrive if those differences could be at least considered as possibly unique capacities. The recognition of un-mined capacities in the people we were serving highlighted and flipped the whole approach to serving people with disabilities. Seeing and emphasizing capability on the new disability spectrums has allowed us to respect the gifts of difference. Beginning with strengths along with using the adaptive devices makes it possible to bridge those differences to mainstream opportunities. I see a lot of the fear of “artificial intelligence” as the last gasp of the “pre-spectrum trance” that saw intelligence as a stable human commodity reliably measured to serve as society’s sacred core standard for competitive aspiration. People who have lived and worked with learning disability, brain injury, and mental health challenges have had to nudge firm diagnostic categories aside a bit to allow room for the concept of “spectrum of capacities”. This critical shift in emphasize has allowed some segments of our society to recognize that human intelligence as a specialized, albeit important, contributor in a much larger world of subjectivity, creativity, expression and unique production. More than any of us may have suspected, intelligence is an artful summary of reality and essentially metaphor. For this Project I propose discernment rather than intelligence is the more central and singular human gift that allows our total human capacity to position our comparatively feeble individual intelligence as one tool to tap into the infinite risks and rewards of the subjective and sacred.

What I believe may be good about the current artificial intelligence backlash is that we may finally experience as a global community the old sense of loss and disability. It is with almost unbearable despair we recognize we cannot compete using our 20th century understanding of ‘intelligence” with the infinitely clever explosion of what I would call ‘cold information’ that will be emitted from this thing called AI. Unless we can expand our understanding of what it means to be human we are fated to be defeated by this massive trickster. I am in the process of shifting The Good Decision to a discernment model. Our job before acting is to discern the flow of truth as we apply dressing of language and information leading to action. I assure you, discernment is a different skill set. Our world’s trouble right now is not that AI is becoming more competitively human; it is that humans are becoming more like AI.

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