Don Gale: Artificial intelligence needs the balance of human intelligence

(Martin Meissner | AP file photo) In this Nov. 29, 2019, photo, a metal head made of motor parts symbolizes artificial intelligence, or AI, at the Essen Motor Show in Essen, Germany.

Artificial intelligence. Big deal. What we really need is more good old human intelligence.

Artificial intelligence may help one or two of us eventually get to Mars. Human intelligence will help us get along together here on this planet. Artificial intelligence may speed up manufacturing and distribution of “things.” Human intelligence will speed up our appreciation for one another. Artificial intelligence may help solve the problem of global climate change. Only human intelligence can reduce or eliminate the social roadblocks that keep us from moving in that direction.

We do a good job of educating citizens so they will have the tools for developing artificial intelligence. We don’t do so well at tapping into the human intelligence built into every human organism. To prove the point, we need only recall the election of Donald Trump, a man basically ill-prepared, amoral and uninformed. Voters allowed artificiality to override human intelligence. They forgot what they had learned — or were supposed to have learned — in high school about experience, morality and history.

If that doesn’t convince you, consider the supposedly educated young people who fawned over Bernie Sanders, the Don Quixote of our time. For decades, Sanders tilted at windmills but accomplished nothing. Whether his ideas are good or bad means little if he does not have the leadership skills to make them happen. Sanders’ grandiose plans are no more realistic than Trump’s empty promises.

Somehow, followers of both Trump and Sanders have not learned that a democracy moves slowly and deliberately, that progress requires the compromise, which comes with reasoned conversation, and that empty words are less important than human patience and hard work. Youth is impatient. Human intelligence, not so much.

Too much of today’s education focuses on so-called STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering, mathematics. Fair enough. They keep the economic wheels turning. STEM subjects are also foundational to developing artificial intelligence.

As artificial intelligence becomes ever-more comprehensive and efficient, human beings may become less important. That’s already true with data collection and analysis. Facebook gathers your shopping data, breaks it into teeny tiny bits, and sells the bits to retailers driven by data rather than by product quality or customer service — whether you like it or not.

It appears that business and government leaders often favor teaching subject matter leading to artificial intelligence. They channel money and support in that direction. But if this great experiment called the United States of America is to succeed, we must balance artificial intelligence with human intelligence. In order to do that, we must provide young citizens with education in history, the arts, social studies and other subjects necessary for a well-balanced education. Both public and private education need to find a better balance than they have today.

The same is true for higher education. It has become so insanely specialized that students too often find themselves in uselessly narrow courses of study. (No doubt, some school somewhere offers a major in the study of left-handed authors or, as I heard not long ago, the study of “political communication.” Bizarre!

The solution for higher education is to flood campuses with students who are motivated rather than with students who simply accumulate high performance records. Adding more students to every campus will keep faculty busy so they have less time for trivia.

Artificial intelligence will certainly improve output and efficiency in all endeavors, but only human intelligence can identify and solve issues centered on human development.

Don Gale.

Don Gale, a long-time Utah journalist, learned much about the world from STEM classes in high school and college, but he learned about life from the human intelligence of family, friends and wise teachers.