A Brain-Friendly Brain in a World of AI

3 min read
9 July 2020

Technology is changing our world in an exponential way. And within technology, Artificial Intelligence is one of the fields that generates and has generated higher expectations. In fact, it is said that we are the last generation in history smarter than machines.

In reality, the concept of “artificial intelligence” is not new. It is older than nearly everyone reading this article, and was actually presented in 1956, eleven years after World War II, by a computer scientist named John McCarthy (1927-2011).

He defined it as “the science and ingenuity of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs.”

Machine learning and programming are sciences which require data on a certain scale.Thus, they tell us the machines not only react to a situation but also prepare themselves to act in the most appropriate way.

McCarthy (along with Claude Shannon, who created the first computer, the K model, in 1937, and Marvin Minsky of MIT, are considered the parents of Artificial Intelligence at the 1956 Dartmouth conference) got the term right, which consists of two positive words. 

Intelligence comes from Latin, from the sum of “intus” (between) and “legere” (choose). Intelligence is knowing how to choose. The smartest people are the ones who make the best choices. Therefore, intelligence is knowing how to choose and it is demonstrated by the consequences, although we have ended up accepting intelligence as “what the intelligence tests measure”. Nassim Taleb has shown that IQ (Intellectual Quotient) is nothing other than pseudoscience.

In addition, the intelligence that emerged as an idea more than half a century ago is not that of living beings, but an “artificial” intelligence. The artificial is manufactured by human beings and not by nature. And mind you, it is also the false, the simulated and the deceptive.

Artificial intelligence is already in our lives in many ways, including the search engines of technology companies such as Amazon or Alibaba, in the recommendations of Netflix, in personal assistants like Siri or Alexa, in the IBM Watson platform, etc. The promise is that we haven't seen anything yet. At the cinema, it was present in the Matrix trilogy, in ‘The Bicentennial Man’ with Robin Williams, based on Isaac Asimov’s story, or in ‘Her’ by Spike Jonze.

The surprising thing is the shared vision of the machine in front of the human being. It is what’s proposed in the first ‘Terminator’ (1984) by James Cameron, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton. T-800 is a killer robot that comes from the future to kill Sarah Connor, future mother of the human leader against the machines. It is set in 2029, in less than ten years, and it presents an apocalyptic scenario where life is especially difficult. The world is governed by an artificial intelligence system called Skynet and the soundtrack gives more drama to the film.

Fortunately, people are not, as the Brazilian engineer and artist Beto Levy says, “Artificial Intelligence of poor quality”. We are much more, and the human brain is the most wonderful organ in the universe if we know how to take care of it as it deserves.

People cannot and should not compete in what dominates Artificial Intelligence, but take advantage of it for our benefit.

In our upcoming book, Brain-Friendly Leadership, Silvia Damiano and myself refer to the research of the German neuroscientist and biochemist Henning Beck, from the Scene Grammar Lab, and his work: To err is useful: When making a mistake is getting it right’ (2019).

The human brain, unlike AI, forgets, learns badly from memory (“we have an orchestra of neurons ... without a conductor”), mishandles memories, goes blank, calculates the elapsed time with difficulty, gets bored, distracted, calculates slowly and imperfectly, prejudges (mental patterns), needs to be motivated, enjoys creating and falls into perfectionism.

It might seem like a disaster in terms of Artificial Intelligence. However, it is there where we can find its greatness. Dr Beck advises us to remain imperfect, but unique.

The human brain has three great assets that Artificial Intelligence will not reach in the next 20 years, according to experts such as Dr Carl Frey of Oxford: creativity, emotional intelligence and the resolution of complex problems.

Therefore, we must strive to make our brain ‘Brain-Friendly’ through Direction habits (Purpose, Choice of Ideas, Visualisation), Care (Mindfulness and Sleep, Adequate Food, Physical Exercise) and Development (Conversation, Optimism smart, lifelong learning). These are the 9 habits for a ‘future fit’ mind.

Because technology multiplies talent, which is the triumphant intelligence which chooses goals well, manages information, manages emotions and practises the virtues of action (José Antonio Marina). AI is the complement to a “brain-friendly” leadership: inspiring, integrative, imaginative and intuitive.

The paradigm, then, is not that of the Terminator, but that of Iron Man, the leader of the “Avengers” (Avengers). Tony Stark is a successful entrepreneur who does not have special powers, but the talent to take advantage of technology. It is the so-called “Augmented Humanity”, which is the present and the future.

Let's take advantage of technology to be people with purpose, to choose the positive thoughts that suit us, to visualise the future we want and go for it; to sleep the time that is necessary and to enjoy relaxing, to feed ourselves better, to practise sports and physical exercise; to talk with tonic people and avoid toxic ones, to encourage optimism and to take advantage of our learnability. 

AI and technology in general, is a good servant but a bad master.

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