Sixth Presidential Roundtable Discussion – Frankensteins or Gods?
The sixth of a series of ASSAf Presidential Roundtables moderated by ASSAf’s President, Prof Jonathan Jansen, took place virtually on 25 November 2020.The discussion titled, “Frankensteins or Gods? The Impact of the New Technologies on What It Means To Be Human”, featured Prof Margaret Levi, Director: Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, as the guest speaker.
The guest lecture put the human question in and the societal implications of artificial intelligence (AI) under the spotlight and addressed the questions that we face, as machine learning and algorithmic decision become more deeply embedded in the processes that guide our information sources, our governing and criminal justice system, our shopping, and so much more.
Prof Levi was joined by local scholars, Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor, University of Johannesburg and one of the world’s foremost thinkers on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR); Dr Asheel Singh, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Johannesburg and Dr Mpho Tshivhase, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Pretoria.
Although AI can improve some of our decision making well beyond human capability, it can control our lives and our choices in ways we do not want, would never want, and yet do not fully perceive until too late. The alternative to either of these extreme scenarios is to think of how best to establish a partnership, where humans and machines work together to construct a better world for us all. This requires recognising the contribution of each to a reimagined division of labour, ensuring that each does its part within proper domains and according to appropriate standards, and nourishing each of the partners as we evolve together.