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Don't Outsource Your Knowledge

This morning an ad on YouTube mentioned that I could have an AI assistant to help tie together all my known financial inputs and outputs and then could give me advise about how to spend money. My first thought was, I don’t trust that much information to one source now, why would I do it just because you say “AI.” Now I understand that little of our lives re actually private, or secure, but it started me thinking about what knowledge we keep, and what knowledge we outsource.



In the rapidly advancing age of artificial intelligence (AI), the notion of outsourcing critical skills, such as literacy, to AI or corporate entities is becoming a debated topic. Literacy, the fundamental ability to read, write, and understand information, is a cornerstone of personal empowerment and progress. Entrusting this essential skill to AI or companies poses several significant risks that merit consideration. This is why I don’t think you should outsource your core knowledge to AI or corporations:


A fundamental human response is fear of the unknown. Many people experience anxiety when confronted with technologies and experiences and situations they do not understand. Every task you outsource, makes you more afraid and more dependent on the external resource. You don’t understand much about medicine for example. You outsource that knowledge to a doctor. But when you are sick and do not understand what is happening you have a stronger fear response because everything is deeper into the unknown. When you talk to the doctor an they explain things to you openly and honestly you may become less afraid as you understand what is going to happen next. (There are always the not insubstantial minority who get more afraid about known medical procedures.) By taking back some of that knowledge, you gain confidence and can make more informed decisions which are right for you.


Similarly, if you do not spend time trying to understand core aspects of how to live life, and individuals outsource their subject literacy to AI, they might not grasp the nuances of the information they receive. This lack of understanding can breed dependency and erode critical thinking skills, leading to a society less capable of independent thought and decision-making. Trusting AI to manage literacy skills essentially means placing faith in a system that few fully understand, which can be both dangerous and disempowering.


Consider the relationship between individuals and medical or pharmacology companies. While these entities often operate with a dual mandate of providing beneficial products and achieving profit, there is an inherent conflict of interest. Do these companies prioritize your health and well-being above their financial gain? History has shown numerous instances where pharmaceutical companies have pushed products for profit, sometimes at the expense of patient safety.


Translating this to AI, particularly AI developed and controlled by large corporations, raises similar concerns. These companies might develop AI that serves to enhance your medical decision-making literacy but also subtly advances their own interests. For example, an AI designed to help individuals understand medical information might prioritize information that steers them toward particular treatments or medications from the sponsoring company. Therefore, relying on such AI to the exclusion of gaining deep personal knowledge could mean exposing yourself to biased information that prioritizes corporate interests over individual well-being.


Financial literacy is another critical area where personal understanding is paramount. Most people do not simply hand over all financial decision-making to banks or financial institutions. While we may trust these entities to safeguard our money, we also recognize the importance of understanding our finances to make informed decisions about spending, saving, and investing. Banks and financial advisors, while helpful, often have their own interests, such as promoting investment products that might benefit their bottom line.


Just as you wouldn’t want a bank to dictate all your financial decisions, you shouldn’t want an AI to determine what information you consume and how you understand it. Maintaining control over your literacy ensures that you can critically analyze the information presented to you, discern biases, and make informed decisions based on a well-rounded understanding.


At its core, literacy and knowledge is about empowerment. The ability to read, write, and comprehend information allows individuals to participate fully in society, make informed decisions, and engage in critical thinking. Literacy is not just about understanding words on a page; it is about interpreting, questioning, and synthesizing information from multiple sources. This process of critical engagement creates a deeper understanding and appreciation of the world. When we rely on AI for these tasks, we risk losing the skills that allow us to question and interpret information independently.


I am not saying that AI is evil, I am saying unquestioned AI and handing over the reins of any portion of your life reduces you, your agency and your ability to live as you see fit. The cure to it all, is reading. Don’t give in to the assumptions a system places on you. Read, and make your own decisions in conjunction with educated partners.

 

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