Yale Explores: Being Human in the Age of Intelligent Machines

What does it mean to be human in the age of intelligent machines? This question was explored during the October 11th Yale Explores event at David Geffen Hall co-sponsored by yale.NYC. Yale Explores is a traveling event that brings together faculty and alumni to engage in the discussion and exploration of different challenges facing our world, and Yale’s role in these matters. The New York event was “Humans in the Age of Intelligent Machines,” and as the title suggests, the discussion revolved around how our lives have changed with the creation of artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and its ethical implications. Beyond how our lives have already changed, the panelists also discussed what will happen to human adaptation in the future, and what ethical questions should be addressed.

The panel of distinguished Yale Professors Shelly Kagan (Clark Professor of Philosophy), Laurie Santos (Professor of Psychology), and Brian Scassellati (Professor of Computer Science and of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science) was moderated by Margaret Warner ’71 and followed by remarks by President Salovey.

Beyond how our lives have already changed, the panelists also discussed what will happen to human adaptation in the future, and what ethical questions should be addressed. Contrary to what the Terminator franchise has led us to believe, experts aren’t very worried that the robots will someday rise up and extinguish all human life. Rather, the more pressing problem for us is the way we’ve allowed “smart” technology to manipulate us -- the way we learn, how we engage socially, and even how we view ourselves as individuals. Studies show that people are less adept at learning and retaining information if their phone is within eyeshot. Technology has rewired our brains to such an extent that we’re impaired just by the presence of our gadgets, whether we’re using them or not. Our emotional and social connections are also affected by technology -- when we have our phones, we’re 6X less likely to engage with others or have a measured emotional connection.

To learn more about this event -- and watch a video of the riveting discussion -- visit Yale Explores...

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