In the AI Age, “Being Smart” Will Mean Something Completely Different


Artificial intelligence is everywhere, from Apple’s iPhone keyboard to Zillow’s home price estimates. But the prospect of A.I. becoming smarter than people at most tasks is the single biggest thing that drives debates about effects on employment, creativity and even human existence.

AI is predicted to be a far more formidable competitor than any human, we will be in a frantic race to stay relevant. This will require human to take their cognitive and emotional skills to a much higher level.

Many experts believe that human beings will still be needed to do the jobs that require higher-order critical, creative, and innovative thinking and the jobs that require high emotional engagement to meet the needs of other human beings. The challenge for many of us is that we do not excel at those skills because of our natural cognitive and emotional proclivities: We are confirmation-seeking thinkers and ego-affirmation-seeking defensive reasoners. We will need to overcome those proclivities in order to take our thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating skills to a much higher level.

The process of upgrading begins with changing our definition of what it means to “be smart.” To date, many of us have achieved success by being “smarter” than other people as measured by grades and test scores, beginning in our early days in school. The smart people were those that received the highest scores by making the fewest mistakes.

AI will change this.  Smart machines can process, store, and recall information faster and better than we humans. Additionally, AI can pattern-match faster and produce a wider array of alternatives than we can. AI can even learn faster. In an age of smart machines, our old definition of what makes a person smart doesn’t make sense.

What is needed is a new definition of being smart, one that promotes higher levels of human thinking and emotional engagement. The new smart will be determined not by what or how you know but by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning. Quantity is replaced by quality. And that shift will enable us to focus on the hard work of taking our cognitive and emotional skills to a much higher level.

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