Human vs. AI: The Indomitable Edge

Patrick Mandic
April 9, 2024

Are humans going to be overtaken by AI? Humans possess an innate skill that not only gives them an edge over AI, but ensures they will thrive in the years ahead. Are you focusing on it? Let’s talk about “meaning” and the importance of being unpredictable.

As AI, particularly models based on Large Language Models (LLMs), revolutionizes our world—boosting productivity and transforming industries—it’s tempting to ponder humanity's future role in the information economy. With global productivity soaring and the S&P 500 up 40% against all prognoses, consulting firms are downsizing as tasks from report writing to coding and image creation become markedly easier. This transformational technological leap promises to accelerate progress in unprecedented ways.

Yet, when I bring up the marvels of AI with friends, colleagues, and clients, a common question arises: Are humans becoming obsolete in the information economy? Have we, in our quest for efficiency, unleashed a modern Prometheus, endowing ourselves with a gift that challenges our very essence? Not entirely. A bastion of indomitable humans continues to hold out against this technological invader.

Technology, by definition, outperforms humans in many tasks—that's the essence of its creation. While LLM-based AI excels in creation and building, it currently lacks in areas that are bridged by external rule-based models (like ChatGPT's integration with calculators).

However, the significant human advantage stems from the inherent nature of AI. Instead of programming a system to solve problems (the traditional rule-based approach), AI learns by example. Training involves showing the system what output typically follows an input, leading to creating the most likely result (in AI terms, a result is, in fact, called a prediction). AI delivers expected results remarkably well, but it’s actually the opposite that gives humans an edge: our ability to be unpredictable.

Radical innovations and societal leaps stem from challenging the status quo, not from improving upon it. Humans excel in being irrational, unpredictable, and contrarian, sometimes acting against their own interests, embodying traits that AI, for now, cannot replicate. But even if they could, I would argue that it would still not help them. The importance of Picasso’s cubism is a lot more about the process than the outcome. You need to understand the “why” of the process before the outcome is meaningful and relevant, and therefore recognized as a disruption. This is another thing AI can’t do; you can’t ask AI why or how it came up with a specific answer, again, by nature.

Closing with a quote my father often shared, "Only because he didn’t know it was impossible, he succeeded." I invite you to reflect. Are you spending most of your time consuming other people’s thoughts, striving to be 10% more efficient, applying the latest productivity hack from social media, and thus getting into the realm of what machines do very well? Or are you creating, daring to be foolish, learning on the go, experimenting, answering a "Why" with a "Why not?", embracing meaning and honing the human ability to be predictably unpredictable?

PS: I would love to hear your thoughts on the above text and what you do to grow your "unpredictability" muscle!

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