September 5, 2023

Thinking with AI - Pros and Cons — Language, Logic, and Loops

By Andres Fortino

The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) with large language modeling capabilities has ushered in a new era of possibilities in various domains, including education and cognitive enhancement. One intriguing prospect is the role of AI as a problem-solving partner—a digital companion that engages in dialogues (language), questions assumptions (logic), and guides individuals through the process of thinking beyond (loops). The concept of AI stepping into the shoes of Socratic questioning, helping everyone have Steve Jobs-like insights into what hasn’t yet been invented, holds the promise of enhancing human cognitive abilities, promoting deeper reflection, and cultivating intellectual growth. But thinking with AI is not without risk. In this short reflection, we outline the pros and cons of thinking with ChatGPT by our side. 



Enhanced Problem Solving: AI can process vast amounts of data and information in a fraction of the time it would take a human. This capacity can lead to more effective problem-solving and decision-making, especially in fields that require extensive data analysis, such as scientific research, finance, and healthcare. IBM's Watson, for instance, analyzes vast medical datasets to aid doctors in diagnosing complex illnesses, identifying patterns that might elude human scrutiny.

Efficient Information Retrieval: AI-powered algorithms can quickly retrieve relevant information from massive databases, aiding professionals in staying current with the latest developments in their fields. This streamlined access to information can foster greater innovation and knowledge dissemination. With their ability to answer queries and keep users up-to-date with real-time news and updates, AI virtual assistants like Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistantare good examples.

Personalized Learning: AI-driven educational platforms can tailor learning experiences to individual needs and preferences, catering to each student's pace and style of learning, and leadingto more effective learning outcomes and a more inclusive education system. In fact, adaptive learning platforms like Duolingo already personalize language instruction based on individual progress, tailoring lessons to users' strengths and weaknesses and enhancing language acquisition through customized exercises.

Innovative Creativity: AI can serve as a source of inspiration for human creativity by generating novel ideas, designs, and solutions. Creative professionals, such as artists and writers, can use AI to explore uncharted territories of imagination. AI-generated art, such as Obvious's "Portrait of Edmond de Belamy" demonstrates this creative potential. This painting, generated using machine learning algorithms, prompts discussions about the interplay between human creativity and AI's artistic potential.



Loss of Authenticity: Relying too heavily on AI assistance may detract from genuine human thought processes. The uniqueness of human thinking, with its intuitive leaps and emotional nuances, risks being overshadowed by machine-generated algorithms. AI-generated music is already facing this problem. "Daddy's Car," composed by Sony's AI program, analyzed Beatles songs to create an original piece, raising questions about the boundary between authentic human creativity and machine mimicry.

Dependency and Reliability: Over-reliance on AI could lead to a loss of critical thinking skills and judgment among individuals. The inability to discern between AI-generated and human-generated insights can be detrimental in situations requiring independent decision-making. For example, excessive reliance on spell-checkers may hinder spelling skills. While tools like Grammarly are invaluable, the overdependence on such tools can lead to a decline in human grammar proficiency.

Privacy Concerns: The integration of AI in thought processes requires access to personal data, raising concerns about privacy and data security. If mishandled, this data could be vulnerable to breaches or misuse. While useful, virtual assistants like Amazon Echo record the voices of their users, and it is crucial to keep these recordings from being inadvertently shared with third parties without explicit consent.

Job Displacement: The widespread adoption of AI for cognitive tasks could lead to job displacement, particularly in industries where routine tasks are easily automated. This could have socio-economic ramifications, including unemployment and the need for retraining. Assembly lines already employ robotic arms for tasks once performed by humans, leading to workforce challenges and necessitating retraining initiatives.

Ethical Dilemmas: AI systems are programmed with biases that reflect the data they were trained on. Relying on AI for complex decision-making could perpetuate existing biases and raise ethical questions about accountability and fairness. Famously, AI-powered algorithms tend to perpetuate biases, as seen in facial recognition systems misidentifying individuals based on ethnicity.

Ultimately, thinking with the help of artificial intelligence presents a double-edged sword—a realm of both incredible promise and potential pitfalls. As society ventures into an era of AI-assisted creativity, it is imperative to strike a balance between harnessing the capabilities of technology and preserving the essence of human cognition. Educating future generations to make the best of both worlds is the best and only way to ensure that we take advantage of new resources without leaving our individuality behind. 


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Andres Fortino is a clinical associate professor at the NYU School of Professional Studies (NYU SPS) and a member of the NYU SPS Emerging Technologies Collaborative team, whose members share a common interest in leveraging emerging technologies to prepare the future leaders and innovators of industry - NYU SPS students - with a working knowledge and hands-on experience to help them to get ahead in the real world.


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