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Staying human in the age of AI

The convenience technoligy offers may inadvertently hinder the creative capacity of the human mind

By Natasha Khalid |
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PUBLISHED April 28, 2024

On a not so mundane Monday, I delved into my quality improvement project and devised two questions to enhance its effectiveness after a good forty minutes. Glancing to my right, I saw that my colleague had finished the proposal, marvelling at his speed compared to my own cognitive struggles with tasks like these.

This sense of wonder dissipates when he tells me how he used ChatGPT to devise the entire plan; all he had to do was type certain prompts, and the software generated the entire project with headings outlined for him. This was my introduction to the world of ChatGPT, which I was aware of but too hesitant to embrace before this instance. Now, I've taken over the app and experimented with various ideas that came to mind, editing many of my longstanding drafts stored on my hard drive. As I work through it, a myriad of questions arose in my mind about the implications of its use, its potential to diminish critical thinking, and the benefits it offers.

While ChatGPT is designed to augment human intelligence rather than replace it, recent developments may suggest otherwise.

In today's contemporary, fast-paced, and technology-driven world, the imperative for individuals to become lifelong learners has become challenging. From problem resolution to project designs, everything is more about quick fixes and instant gratification. The ability of individuals to work on a task for hours and days after discussions and research is slowly becoming obliterated. At one point, I feel that is a good thing, but the scientific aspect of my being, studying biology, and how neurons need constant rewiring to make one smarter conflict with the ease that Artificial Intelligence (AI) provides.

While AI offers numerous benefits to industries, it also comes with its drawbacks like everything else does. Not only does it hinder the individuals' ability to cultivate critical thinking and question-based learning, but its usage can also impede the development of relationship-building skills. Regular interaction with AI entities, like virtual assistants or chatbots, may desensitise individuals to emotional cues and subtleties found in real-life interactions. This emotional detachment can pose challenges to empathy and interpersonal communication skills, which are essential for fostering genuine relationships.

Dr Presh, a 30-year-old family medicine physician, describes AI as limiting people in their capacity to talk and interact with others. "People are actively avoiding social interactions because they are relying more on AI to interact," she explains.

While AI may be beneficial, when one has numerous questions and no one to talk to, it also inhibits the development of social skills necessary for meaningful interactions.

"One of the benefits that I observe is that AI helps residents finish their patient notes faster, make presentations, and complete many other tasks,” Dr Presh adds. “This saves time but hampers critical thinking which one develops as they work on the tasks themselves without assistance."

Historically, individuals were esteemed for embodying virtues like generosity, compassion, and a natural inclination to help without hesitation. Regrettably, the advent of AI in contemporary society has brought about shifts in these qualities. One contributing factor is the increasing reliance on AI technologies, which may diminish the opportunities for individuals to exercise their innate virtues. With AI handling tasks that were once human driven, such as editing, designing, idea generation, surgery, and driving, there's a risk of diminishing the human qualities of creativity, empathy, and the willingness to lend a helping hand. Additionally, the convenience offered by AI may discourage active engagement in research and critical thinking, further impacting these essential human qualities.

Artificial vs real

No matter how much fame Tesla gains, the joy of driving oneself at whatever speed desired, navigating the roads, and making it to the destination after a few wrong turns still stands unparalleled to a machine doing it all by itself. Also, access to charging stations remains a task for Tesla owners. Similarly, robotic surgeries deprive individuals of the dopamine hit one gets after performing surgery with their own hands. However, AI has its perks too, as its core purpose is to enhance human intelligence. The role of AI in revolutionising various aspects of transplant nephrology is astounding, from donor selection to post-transplant care, ultimately enhancing patient outcomes and reducing the burden on healthcare systems and ameliorating the success rates.

The job front

One significant impact AI is making is on the employment rate by replacing jobs. While employing machines for tasks may allow companies to cut costs on employees, thereby decreasing the employment rate in a nation, which is alarming on many levels, it also impacts basic jobs like data entry, customer support services, legal research, contract analysis, chat boxes for customer support, and content creation. While we still rely on influencers to introduce us to products, the quality of written content has declined as it now often relies on the voice of AI rather than human creativity. But the good news is what AI can’t do is pull out a great sense of humour yet. The uniqueness of a joke or the randomness of a typo error to make you laugh is unparalleled. While most jobs look threatened by their rise, there are some capacities that the human brain will always excel at, such as a sense of humour and the ability to critique based on knowledge and years of education.

Wonders of ChatGPT

Sara Ashraf, Head of Content at a communication agency and a writer, uses ChatGPT for copywriting, presentation writing, making pitches, and strategic planning. "One might think I should be offended, as much of the content created by AI is not original but machine generated,” she explains. “However, it has made me think differently. I used to spend months dwelling on an idea, rewriting it, sometimes reading it out loud, and then proofreading it. This would take months to write to come with a final product. Since the advent of ChatGPT, much of that effort has been reduced, saving me time. Now, I can easily pen down details about a subject and think from a bird's eye view, rather than spending all my time editing. One must be clever when using these tools to benefit."

Getting too used to AI

Ayesha Abdul Ahad, a 34-year-old Clinical Psychologist and Trauma Specialist at the House of Pebbles in Karachi, believes that as much as technology and AI have made our lives easier, these have also impacted our reaction times. “Patience levels have reduced, we look for immediate gratification everywhere and need quick, precise, and apt answers to everything. And lastly, too much of anything is a curse. If it is used for every assignment, proposal, report, or generating an email on a regular basis, and the person is not using their own intellectual sense, it will hinder their high functioning cognition. But if used just to get a framework, which is edited to their needs and ideas, then it is supportive.”

Are we losing our mind?

While AI undoubtedly aids the youth in minimising effort and time, concerns arise about its potential impact on limiting human brain development. The convenience of AI in performing tasks may inadvertently hamper the creative capacity of the human mind.

As a practicing doctor who initially delved into writing during med school to supplement my pocket money and later pursued it out of sheer passion, I found myself embracing the world of ChatGPT relatively late. Nevertheless, once on board, I quickly recognised the potential advantages it offered. My initial interactions involved working on a few articles for editing, but what struck me was the realisation that my unedited content was being published without any alterations previously. The unique joy of producing something oneself versus witnessing it transformed by an editor or AI is truly incomparable.

As I embrace ChatGPT, I reflect on the changing landscape of content creation. The ease with which AI-generated content can be produced raises questions about the uniqueness and individuality of human expression. Delving into the cognitive benefits of writing for brain development, it becomes evident that consistent writing not only hones writing skills but also contributes to the growth of neurons responsible for increased brain activity and sharper mental acuity. No matter how many almonds one consumes for a sharpened brain, the central message remains clear: the brain's cells are best shaped and utilised through mental exercises, with writing emerging as a particularly potent avenue and learning a language as the second-best avenue.

What lies ahead

The prominent issue of AI supremacy becomes a focal point, raising considerations regarding the type of individuals we may cultivate in the future. Will they possess greater intelligence, diligence, and creativity, expressing their distinctive perspectives and ideas? Or will everything be mechanised for them, devoid of originality? In a recently held experiment at Harvard University where counselors were given AI and human-generated essays for admission, the counsellors were able to tell the difference, as essays written by ChatGPT often lack specific details, leading to essays that lack supporting evidence for their points. The writing is clichéd and relies on generic expressions to describe situations, rather than exploring the author's emotional perspective. The essays are often repetitive and predictable, leaving readers without surprise or a sense of the writer’s journey. If chatbots produce content on issues of race, sex, or socioeconomic status, they often employ stereotypes compared to ones written by human that would embody a sense of opinion and journey.

While AI excels at certain tasks, the concern revolves around the potential lack of a diverse skill set and nuanced thinking characteristic of human intelligence and empathy. Will our workforce become proficient in tasks handled by AI but deficient in the broader array of capabilities that define human ingenuity? Contemplating the trajectory of AI influence, there are many nuances that come to mind.

Take home

In today's world, where AI is becoming more integrated into our lives, I want to highlight the importance of qualities like critical thinking, empathy, generosity, and a sense of responsibility. I believe that as we embrace AI, it's crucial to remember these human traits. We need to encourage a mindset that values these qualities, ensuring that as technology advances, it aligns with our fundamental human values. From my experiences in writing, exploring AI, and thinking deeply, I've come to realise the importance of taking a proactive approach. It's up to each of us to uphold and improve upon the best aspects of humanity, like critical thinking and empathy, even as technology evolves. Together, we can shape a future where AI benefits us while preserving what makes us truly human.


Natasha Khalid is a doctor and a freelance contributor

All facts and information is the sole responsibility of the writer