Do Androids Dream Of Electric Solutions?


I recently read an article on the University of Surrey website about driverless cars. Oh boy!

It was predicting a point in the future at which it will be considered the right thing to do, morally, to hand over control of cars to machines.

This is because of our continuing efforts as a species to develop artificial intelligence technology.

They’ll eventually, inevitably become sufficiently advanced to make quicker, more intelligent decisions than humans.

That means it’ll consistently be safer for them to drive (we’re apparently a long way from that point at the moment, by the way, but steadily making progress in that direction).

I couldn’t help but wonder about the implications of this endeavour for the wider aspects of human existence, including the practice of using conversation to facilitate change in people’s lives.

Solution focused practice can be viewed as applying a relatively simple algorithm with persistence and attention to detail.

This, like driving a car safely, is actually a very difficult thing for humans to do consistently well for all sorts of reasons.

These reasons include the incredibly versatile nature of the human brain, which could be likened to a swiss army knife/multi tool, compared to the more refined fitness for purpose of a machine designed to concentrate purely on a single task.

Even those people who devote as much of their time and energy to mastering solution focused practice as possible, also have to occasionally concentrate on other important activities in order to live a full and rich life as a member of the human race.

I wonder how long it will be before we consider it to be the right thing to do, morally, to hand over the roles of solution focused practitioners to machines, in recognition of their single minded efficiency.

I wonder what difference that will make for us all.

Consider, if you like, the way that drawing upon the experience we gain from all of our different, human activities contributes to the effectiveness of our communication.

Perhaps we’re simply recognising that part of the task in hand, for future machines, will be to also replicate, and further perfect, all of that experience too.

Perhaps machines will become just as or more versatile than us, whilst retaining absolute adaptability, to focus purely and efficiently on a single task in hand when called upon to do so.

Even if we point to the most human aspects of what we do that account for our effectiveness, such as the love we have in our hearts for each other, what if we eventually produce machines that do that too?!

The same article mentioned the advances that have already been made in machines producing works of art, and applying the medical model to accurately and efficiently diagnose and prescribe.

The challenge applies to any activity of people working in helping professions.

I’m thinking about it in relation to solution focused practice because that’s my particular interest. Exactly the same goes for anything you like; CBT, counselling, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, psycho analysis, cooking, gardening, even writing a blog!

The catch is that human conversation is deceptively complicated, even at it’s most simple.

This was beautifully and hilariously demonstrated by Jim Al-Khalili, a colleague of mine at the University of Surrey, in his BBC Four documentary ‘The Joy of AI’, which aired last week (still available on BBC iPlayer at time of writing and which I highly recommend).

So it’s very possible, likely even, that future manifestations of artificial intelligence will be facilitating the process of people becoming their best selves through effective communication.

This might be to the unprecedented benefit of the human race.

However, this really isn’t something that looks likely to happen overnight, or any time soon.

In the meantime, I predict that our humanity will both hinder and help in our efforts to do the best we can, and we’ll all no doubt continue to do something very human:

We’ll continue to dream.

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