cover image I, Human: AI, Automation, and the Quest to Reclaim What Makes Us Unique

I, Human: AI, Automation, and the Quest to Reclaim What Makes Us Unique

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. Harvard Business Review, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-1-64782-055-8

The threat posed by artificial intelligence isn’t mass unemployment or murderous droids but subtler mental derangements, according to this astute study. Columbia psychology professor Chamorro-Premuzic (Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?) suggests that AI’s use in search engines, social media, and gadgetry is part of an effort by tech companies to harvest attention and money by identifying and manipulating human patterns of behavior. AI, he contends, prods users to scan and click in predictable, routinized ways; saps attention and patience with information overload; reinforces biases (hiring algorithms, for instance, can recreate bosses’ racial prejudices); and feeds narcissism by courting obsession over the likes garnered by selfies. Chamorro-Premuzic sees little psychic upside to AI, though he’s hopeful that using better data could enable it to challenge rather than amplify biases. The author sometimes meanders away from AI, as when he offers a stimulating celebration of humility as a prerequisite for competence, and the elegant prose ensures his perceptive analysis goes down smoothly (“While we optimize our lives for AI... our very identity and existence have been collapsed to the categories machines use to understand and predict our behavior, our whole character reduced to the things AI predicts about us”). The result is a shrewd, insightful take on the dangers of AI. (Feb.)