The Dangers of Our Innate Artificial Intelligence

One word begets two

Two words beget a cluster

And before we know it a concept is formed

It all happens in our head

With nothing being said

Filters and blinkers

Tunnel vision blindness

We call it preference

But it’s probably the bias of a thousand small decisions

We aren’t even aware of making

*I only utilise one language. I learned these words so long ago I can’t recall not knowing them. There was a time when I was non verbal but I don’t know what that felt like. To look at something and not have the words to describe it is impossible.

Words are funny things. We think a word and then other words come flying across our brains and join the original one and before we know it ideas and judgements are formed. This occurs so fast that we can’t watch the process in real-time. Yet this is exactly what we must do in order to catch our biases in the act of formation.

We all like to think of ourselves as good people. People that wouldn’t be racist. People that would treat everyone in the same way. People that wouldn’t discriminate.

There is a great deal of discussion about artificial intelligence – fear over what and who new technologies may replace in the human world. What we don’t realise is that we already exist within the framework of artificial intelligence, our own.

We are a morass of memory, learning and patterns of behaviour which have knitted together to form a filter through which our very efficient brain sees the world and relays it back to us.

We don’t realise that this is happening every time that we have an interaction with the world. Experience carves chasms and canyons in our mind as surely as storms and water do within the natural landscape.

Every time we think a thought it leaves a residue. If we were to try and keep track of every thought we have ever had it would be impossible. But our brains do. And to save time, our thoughts are recycled and used again. Our language supports this process beautifully by attaching words to our thoughts. Feelings spring from those thoughts which cements the residue as a fixture. Our filters are as transparent as a pair of reading glasses.

As we grow older, it seems we reach for those glasses, we can’t see anything properly without them. By middle age or even well before, our biases are entrenched in our psyche, invisible to ourselves though unfortunately sometimes obvious to the rest of the world.

How shocking then to remove them and see things differently. It is certainly more interesting.

Jessica Nordell is an award winning author who once submitted a piece of writing for consideration several times before changing her name to JD Nordell and resubmitting the same piece of work. “I didn’t believe it would really make a difference” she admitted. Her submission was accepted within an hour. The editor assumed she was male. Male writers are still apparently treated differently to female writers. Jessicas book The End of Bias A Beginning recounts countless facts of discrimination which are common in everyday life from medical practitioners who treat certain demographics differently (and quite unknowingly) to publishers, the police, teachers, and everyday community leaders. It is endemic to the human condition.

But what difference does it make? We are flawed and biased, so what?

Well aside from the fact that we are continually adding to the continuum of flawed policy and systemic discriminatory beliefs – we are hurting ourselves profoundly as well as those we love.

I see my son, do I see how he has changed in just the last month or do I treat him the same as I always have? Do we look at those around us the same way we have historically done or do we truly see them as they are right now in this minute?

We are ever changing and evolving beings. But we are rarely seen as such. It can be frustrating and hurtful. With the holiday season coming up, this simple fact will be cause for tension around many family tables.

To see someone without the filters and narrow focus of bias and experience is revelatory, it also takes a lot of energy, time and discovery. Something our ever efficient brains don’t like to do.

Perhaps the simple act of being aware that we have these inherent biases is enough to be able to change ourselves and the way in which we assume and conclude. At least we might question a belief rather than just run with it from time to time.

Our AI is always on, we can’t help that and probably wouldn’t want to. Without our programming we would be incapacitated and paralysed by the sheer effort it took to disremember everything we knew and relearn something differently every time we have an interaction in the world , but the idea that we live within a biased world of our own creation perhaps gives us an opportunity to expand compassion and catch ourselves in a moment of automatic judgement every day.

And the days add up to something, they add up to a more examined life. After all, it’s far more pleasing to think I am thinking for myself, rather than my artificial intelligence program thinking for me.

A few takeaways if this post has been of interest :

Great book by Jessica Nordell or, the free and interesting podcast conversation between Jonathan Fields and Jessica that triggered me to write this post The Good Life Project.

Have a great day, may you be seen and see others in real time, without filters, we can but try.


Thanks Andy Kelly Unsplash for the header photo. Kids are our hope for the future – if we can change the data before it is laid, perhaps we can change the programming in real time.

19 thoughts on “The Dangers of Our Innate Artificial Intelligence

  1. The thing is everybody is biased. Everybody. And making policy to try to correct it is causing more problems and makes no sense. Reverse discrimination. The best we can do is realize we ALL have these and like you say, we aren’t going to lose them. Try to correct ourselves when it pops up. So public policy needs to try to be as color blind as possible. Merit based society is “racist” now. But that is the only standard we can have.that makes any sense moving forward. You can’t demonize any members of society based on race.

    • It’s not even the “demonizing” though Lynn, it’s the everyday stuff. And it’s not at the government level, it’s at the people mixing with people level. Assumptions and conclusions are made and drawn before an interaction takes place. It is our human design, our brain short cutting . I think that is what bothers me, I’ll always assume, but I hope once I realise what I’ve done automatically then I can open my mind again and look closer.

  2. I remember learning about Nordell’s experience in one of my sociology classes. And we learnt about multiple women who were treated differently the minute they changed their name on their papers. It’s sad but yes we have usually formed certain biases and our thoughts have been programmed to a certain extent by the time we’re adults.

  3. Kate, you never cease to amaze me. “Perhaps the simple act of being aware that we have these inherent biases is enough to be able to change ourselves and the way in which we assume and conclude. At least we might question a belief rather than just run with it from time to time.” I can always relate to your thoughts and feelings. Due to the many experiences I’ve had (the chasms and canyons that you so beautifully detailed) I feel, for the most part, I try and view others in the NOW. Life shifted so much I had to learn new ways to see others. The example of your son…I understand. I’m not who I was YESTERDAY…yet, when time elapses, things change, others may not be with you this KEEP you in a specific memory or experience in THEIR brain. Your wisdom and advice are sound, true, and encouraging. I see it in just daily interactions with people. I think we have to start within our own families and communities…to change this “hard wiring” of expectations and assumptions of others! It’s not easy…some will never change. We’re all human and flawed. I’ll keep trying!! I know you do too! Sending love and hugs knowing that I feel such a connection across the wide miles and water. There’s nothing artificial but a true connection. We can do this, humans! 😜❤️💕🥰

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