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The Subversive Role of AI: Undermining Critical Thinking In The Digital Age


Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

By Jimmy Matsons Matovu

Artificial Intelligence

According to Tech Target, Artificial intelligence(AI) is the emulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially by computer systems. It involves creating algorithms and systems that enable computers to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. These tasks include problem-solving, learning, understanding natural language, recognizing patterns, making decisions, and adapting to new situations.

Emergence of ChatGPT

In the past couple of months, there’s been an insurgence of intriguing technology that has swept almost everyone off their feet, yes, our neighbourhood friend ChatGPT being the most famous AI powered technology developed by Open AI. It stands for “Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT).” It’s trained on a large corpus of text data to generate human-like responses to user input in a conversational way. It answers questions, assists with various tasks based on the input it receives. It uses deep learning techniques, specifically transformers to understand and generate coherent and contextually relevant responses. 

The extent to which ChatGPT values facts and integrity is still very questionable.

Stack overflow, the renowned coding website that has traditionally served as an online platform for programming queries and assistance, in 2022 implemented a temporary ban on ChatGPT for constantly giving wrong answers. To make underscore how ChatGPT has made things worse, in a study by Ameet et al., it was established that ChatGPT can be prompted to produce responses that span from toxic to overly racist. 

Threat To Human Race

As Elon Musk said “the biggest existential threat to the human race”. To take things a little bit out of the purported context of this statement, Artificial intelligence may be the biggest existential threat to the simple art of critical thinking, or even worse, thinking.

Critical Thinking: Conerstone To Human Intellect

Critical thinking is the cornerstone of human intellect and progress. The kind of thinking where we search our minds, question, take time to analyse, interpret and make a comprehensive evaluation of things to come up with a solution or an idea. It is not hubris to say, this undoubtedly special trait and ability is being hampered by artificial intelligence.

As we dive deeper into the world of artificial intelligence, we find ourselves increasingly reliant on smart devices, algorithms, and automated processes even for the simplest of tasks, such as writing a meeting agenda. These technological advancements have undoubtedly made our lives easier and more efficient in many ways. However, as we embrace these conveniences, we must also be mindful of the potential consequences they may have on our ability to engage in critical thinking.

Critical thinking, mother of creativity, is the reason the fore-inhabitants of this our earth were able to come up with fundamental innovations on which the world stands today.

Unfortunately, with the proliferation of AI-driven solutions, there is a risk of complacency and a diminishing need for critical thinking.

When AI systems can provide instant answers, perform complex analyses, and predict outcomes, we may become passive recipients of information rather than active participants in the thinking process. This shift can lead to a decline in our cognitive abilities.

Biases and Limitations

Moreover, the algorithms and data sets that power AI systems are not immune to biases and limitations. They are created by humans and can inherit societal biases, reinforce stereotypes, or perpetuate existing inequalities. Relying solely on AI-generated information without questioning its sources, assumptions, or underlying biases can lead to a distorted view of reality. Critical thinking acts as a safeguard against such pitfalls, allowing us to discern the validity and reliability of information.

Cultivate Habits and Skills

To reconnect with critical thinking in the age of AI, we must cultivate certain habits and skills. First and foremost, we should remain curious and inquisitive. Instead of accepting information at face value, we should actively seek to understand its origins, context, and potential implications. By asking probing questions and engaging in thoughtful discussions, we can develop a deeper understanding of complex issues.

Additionally, we should practice skepticism. While AI can provide quick answers, it is essential to approach these answers with a healthy dose of skepticism. We should evaluate the credibility and accuracy of the information presented, considering alternative viewpoints and conducting our own research when necessary. Critical thinking requires us to challenge assumptions and consider different perspectives, even if they contradict our initial beliefs.

AI excels at processing vast amounts of data, but it is our responsibility to interpret and analyse this information critically. We should be able to identify patterns, recognise biases, and discern between good and bad. By developing our analytical skills, we can make more informed judgments and decisions based on evidence rather than relying solely on AI-generated outputs.

Find a balance

While we navigate the realm of artificial intelligence and its impact on critical thinking, it is important to find a balance that allows us to embrace this technology without losing touch with our humanity. Instead of viewing AI as a replacement for our cognitive abilities, we should see it as a powerful tool that can enhance and complement our human intellect.

By recognising the unique strengths of both AI and human thinking, we can leverage technology to streamline monotonous or boring tasks, process vast amounts of information, and uncover patterns that would be difficult for us to detect alone. This, in turn, frees up our mental capacity to focus on higher-order thinking, such as creative problem-solving, ethical considerations, and fostering meaningful human connections.

By integrating AI into our lives in a mindful and intentional manner, we can harness its potential while preserving the essence of what makes us human.



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