Novus Voices

The Right Question Often Matters More Than the Answer

Vorga Can
June 4, 2024
⌛️ min read
Table of Contents

Are you familiar with the concept of entropy? It’s a concept in physics that suggest that there is some amount of disorder or randomness in every system, even in the universe. And the entropy of the universe must therefore increase over time, all stars eventually burn out, and the universe will face death, just like us.

The concept of entropy reminds me of change, as J. Cole articulates in his song "Middle Child": "Everything grows, it's destined to change." He's currently dealing with 6ix God and K-Dot, but let’s not get sidetracked.

Everything changes—culture, technology, society, even your ex. However, I believe that thanks to the revolution in AI & Robotics, along with fundamental sciences like chemistry, we are on the verge of a major change that humankind has never experienced before.

That's a bold statement.

I may not be an expert in many of the fields I've mentioned, but I studied sociology and started a successful AI startup, so I know a bit about these topics (and yes, I am biased, but I believe this to be true).

So here's the gist: drawing from the research discussed in a recent scholarly article titled The Blended Future of Automation and AI: Examining Some Long-Term Societal and Ethical Impact Features, the implementation of AI and robotics is poised to fundamentally alter our societal structures and ethical frameworks.

As the article points out, AI's ability to impact jobs, societal norms, and interpersonal interactions represents a form of social influence akin to the broad effects theorized postulated under Social Impact Theory (a theoretical framework that describes how individuals can be influenced by other people and by societal forces). Shocking, right? You don’t need a PhD to suspect that AI will affect your everyday life at some point, but you might need one to jump into a question that big.

Long story short, this theory examines how AI, as a new “social actor,” is not merely a tool but an agent that reshapes social norms and values.

Moreover, the ethical implications of such transformative technologies were elaborately discussed in the article. The need for an ethical AI deployment is emphasized to prevent potential social repercussions such as increased inequality or misuse of autonomous systems.

We always like to think that technology globally enriches us. We’ve eradicated hunger and given a good fight against once popular diseases. That’s the cool part. The article advocates for a cautious approach, ensuring that AI development is aligned with human values and societal well-being—something I advocate for as well.

Revisiting Social Impact Theory in the Age of AI

The classic Social Impact Theory initially described how individuals adjust their behaviors based on their social environment. Today, AI, acting as a 'social actor,' adds a new layer to Bibb Latané's theory.

For instance, AI-driven social media algorithms have the power to shape political opinions and social norms at a pace and magnitude that were once unthinkable. What criteria do these algorithms use to determine which content to promote? What are the long-term effects of these decisions? These questions are crucial as we explore the social terrain molded by AI.

As the founder of an AI startup, I too am concerned that we are advancing too quickly. We're not questioning enough; applied sciences are increasingly favored while fundamental principles are being neglected. We seldom stop to ask why we need to accelerate, yet we continue to do so regardless. This can lead to positive outcomes, but the potential for negative consequences is equally significant.

Why the rush?

Economic Shifts Driven by Automation

The integration of AI and robotics into various industries represents more than just a technological upgrade; it serves as a catalyst for profound economic transformation. Automation could lead to significant shifts in employment patterns, with certain jobs becoming gone and new roles emerging.

I have always believed this shift to be fundamentally beneficial for economies—and I still do. After all, we no longer ride horses; efficiency often prevails over other values. Efficiency is undeniably important, not just in human things but as a principle observed in evolution itself.

However, if we label efficiency as factor 'A', we must ask: Can efficiency alone solve all our problems, or do we need factors 'B', 'C', and even 'D' alongside it? At its extreme, efficiency can even be detrimental to society. We need a deeper understanding of human nature and society at large.

When we use terms like “development” and “progress,” we need to tread carefully. Comparing data from different eras can be tricky. It may seem like we're making progress. However, one should be concerned about the relationships between different social and economic classes and how they will be affected by AI.

I'm an optimist, but I'm not naive. We need to answer big questions, but first, we need to come up with those questions.

As the Greek philosopher Plato once mentioned, "The right question is usually more important than the right answer."

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