Artificial stupidity

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Picture thanks to juliandontcheff.wordpress.com

There is a thought that humans were more intelligent when we were hunter gatherers than we are today. Not as individuals but on average. The need to be able to retain huge amounts of information about what was edible and what was poisonous, what would make you feel better and what would make you sick, what things worked together and what didn’t required a detailed memory. The ability to track animals, many of which were stronger, faster and more dangerous than humans, hunt them down and outwit them required and enormous intellect.

Of course I have no way of proving this but it sounds plausible and I have read it in a very credible book. We don’t need many of these skills today. We have outsourced hunting and gathering, food comes in tins and packets with the ingredients written on them and manufacturers are not allowed to put in poisons. It is also very unlikely that we will be attacked by a lion while walking down the high street.

There is also an assumption in this thought that intelligence is genetic and is subject to natural selection and that the pressures of being an early human lead to greater and greater intelligence.

Assuming this is all true, we need to be mindful of our increasing use of technology. The rise of so-called artificial intelligence will make life easier and easier. There won’t be forgetful people as machines will remember for us, there won’t be bad choices as machines will be able to weigh up all the options in advance, we won’t run out of food as our fridges will order in advance and there won’t be bad drivers as our autonomous cars will take care of all that.

Many of the things that drove the evolution of intelligence will be removed from our daily lives. 

There is an unending pressure to make lives easier. Convenience sells and it is clear that consumers are only too willing to buy. In an artificial future it will be easy for all people to survive irrespective of their level of intelligence. There will be no selective pressure and the human race will become less intelligent, perhaps to the point where it can’t create the artificial intelligence it needs to survive. We are talking about millenia here however.

We will become artificially stupid.

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