One day there was a monkey paw lying in front of me on the table. It took me a moment to realize, it was my own hand. At that moment I became aware: I am a monkey – with a monkey’s brain.
The monkey brain explains many things. Much of what I cannot understand, even if I think about it for a long time. Like a dog that’ s too stupid to take off its own dog leash. A dog leash is an unsolvable problem for a dog. No matter how clever the dog may be.
My fellow people: Also all monkeys. That also explains a lot. For example – how they drive cars. And that doesn’t mean that they don’t drive well. On the contrary. Drivers are impressed by well-trained monkeys who steer madly dangerous machines around. Only rarely do accidents happen. And when an accident happens, usually not much happens. Bumpers, safety belts and airbags ensure that nothing bad happens to the monkeys. Then the monkeys get out of their cars, tap around on their mobile phones and a little later a police monkey arrives to secure the scene of the accident and scatter white powder that absorbs the liquid that has run out of the cars.
Insurance companies handle the damage. This is impressive: monkeys came up with all this. It is a complex system of inventions, rules and precautions all serving one purpose: That the monkeys are all right.
In 2016, Arnau Gifreu, a true expert in interactive narration, gave me a few questions that I had to answer on video. I just stumbled across the videos and put them in an 11-minute clip. The questions were a little academic, so I put on my lab coat.
I’m petting a robot. The robot is called Pepper. She is one meter twenty tall, blinks with huge eyes and giggles happily when I scratch her plastic shell with my fingers. I can’t stop petting her and wonder about myself. Actually, I came here because I wanted to learn something about artificial intelligence. Instead I learn something about myself. A robot presses my buttons and feelings arise in me that I can hardly resist.
And obviously this doesn’t work because the robot is such a complicated device.
It takes a while before I understand what is going on. It works because I function so simple.
Humans are in the process of developing artificial intelligence. And to understand how thinking works, they take the most intelligent being they can think of and analyze how it thinks. So they put people into brain scanners and do all possible tests and examinations with them. And the result is always the same: People are insanely bad at thinking. Not only do they make many mistakes, they also believe all sorts of nonsense they have come up for themselves.
It may not be a good idea to create intelligence according to the model of humans – and maybe it doesn’t work at all with artificial intelligence.
Much more important, however, is that people build themselves a mirror by developing artificial intelligence. A mirror in which people can observe themselves thinking. That is what will change humankind.
Like when someone has a stain on his face. Only by looking into the mirror does he become aware of it. It may be very easy to get rid of the stain. But you first have to see the stain to know how to wipe it off your face.