Sunday, January 29, 2023

Inside the Black Box: Thoughts on Judgement, Intuition, Synthesis & Artificial Intelligence

Your Inner "Wisdom Filter" & Decision-Making

[Note: This article was inspired by a comment from a Facebook friend, one of the smartest people I know, after I posted a link to a news article about the potential for AI systems to attain singularity with humanity very soon. She said, "... as a writer and artist, I am not convinced that the divine spirit that informs great writers and artists can be replicated by computers." This comment poked at me for days, irritating and causing me to abandon the half-written article I had been working on. There is an old saying that sometimes writers write to figure out what they are actually thinking. Below is my response to my friend's comment, in which I have begun to figure out what I think about AI's place in our world. - MG]

Why You Can "Trust Your Gut" 

A few years back, when I was teaching project management (PM) for new project managers, I encouraged them to overcome their decision-making doubts and "analysis paralysis" by showing them a graphical depiction of why their so-called "gut decisions" or intuitions were actually grounded in their many valuable life experiences. (See diagram above.) I later captured the matching narrative in a podcast then an essay which became the chapter Why You Should Trust Your Judgement (Your "Inner Wisdom" Filter) in my book Worth Sharing: Essays & Tools to Help Project Managers & Their Teams.  

Here's a quick summary: 

"... Your intuitions, “gut feelings,” and hunches are derived from, and ultimately grounded in, your unique life experiences, both good and bad. And because of this, they have behind them the solid proof of your reality. To illustrate how all these experiences come together to generate solid, trustworthy judgments, I present to you the analogy of the common kitchen strainer... Your inner voice (i.e., your judgment) operates pretty much like that kitchen strainer! Let’s say you have to make a difficult decision and don’t have time to think about it. All sorts of possibilities and pertinent facts and constraints and outcomes rattle around in your brain. Your “internal strainer” is activated to deal with this. The wires in your strainer are made up of a vast set of unique experiences that you’ve acquired over your lifetime. Successes, failures, joys, miseries, and all sorts of life events combine to form this internal screening mechanism.... when all the possible solutions and issues related to a problem are dumped into that strainer, the good stuff — a unique and powerful judgment — emerges. It’s a judgment that’s automatically informed by all of your life experiences. And, as such, it’s powerful and trustworthy!" -  from Why You Should Trust Your Judgement (Your "Inner Wisdom" Filter)


Literary, Artistic and Intellectual Inspiration: Your Wisdom Filter as Synthesizer

If you add to your personal history the experiences of engaging (i.e., being exposed to) or trying to create a piece of art or literature or philosophy, you can see how these might be woven into your internal strainer, enabling it to generate a unique and inspired creation. The graphic below illustrates.

Why AI Systems are Legitimate, "Inspired" Creators 

Given what I'm learning about artificial intelligence systems, I don't think AIs differ from humans in the way they synthesize their creations. They pull from human experiences that are well-documented and reside on the web. If anything, they have the potential for super human leaps of "inspiration," given the sheer volume of material available for them to search, sift and synthesize. Compared to the world wide web's near-infinite mass of experiences and memories, an individual human's collection is minuscule! 

Whether the creator is human or AI, the creative output is brought about by mixing together inputs from a variety of sources and then synthesizing something new. And in both cases, the flash point that combines and synthesizes that something new happens inside a "black box" of sorts that neither psychologists nor AI developers can precisely explain. But I'm betting that the divine source energy which we speculate to be sparking the human creation might also find a welcoming environment for combustion within the electronic innards of our AI siblings. 

Both AI and human creations are derived from human experiences that have been collected and exist separately outside the individual human that initially experienced them. Whether the original encoded memories were shared among human brains via stories around a campfire or captured, transmitted and stashed among far-flung electronic network nodes, they are still encoded human memories. In the former they exist in a collection of organic synapses and neurons in a meaty body with an expiration date. In the latter they reside in a collection of somewhat longer lasting microchips and circuit boards. Still, in both cases, their existence outside the human who originally experienced them can be objectively confirmed. 

What's more, while I'm not a programmer, I do know that AI developers are humans who create algorithms that reflect human thought processes and reasoning methodologies such as decision trees and other logical structures. Thus whatever is going on inside that AI black box we can assume it's applying human mental operations, though undoubtedly whizzing along much faster than you or I can! 

Here's the thing: Whether an act of creation starts with an individual human who reaches into his or her own limited collection of memories/experiences or it starts with an AI entity accessing the vastly larger collection on the world wide web, the result is the same: experiences, fragments of knowledge and expressions of art are braided together in a unique way, using human thought structures to create something new.

For all of these reasons, I believe AI generated art or literature is as legitimate as that which is generated by individual humans, since they both have their roots in human experiences and both are generated by mechanisms of human thought.

As to the question of who properly "owns" an AI creation or who should claim credit for it... I'll leave that to the lawyers and copyright nerds. Though, in purely practical terms, it ought to be owned by all of humanity. 


Bonus: Some Examples of AI Working for Me

I'm a newbie when it comes to using AI tools. However, since consumer-grade, user-friendly tools have recently been made available at little or no cost, I've experimented with several. Below are some of the results. (I've included links to the tools so you can play with them yourself. Go ahead! It's fun!)


ToonArt: Cartoon Yourself ("powered by AI technology")

Input: A few ordinary "mug shot" photos of myself which I hoped to convert to cartoon-like like avatars for use with my social media accounts

Best Result:  


Lensa: Photo/Pictures Editor (uses artificial intelligence to render digital portraits) 

Input: A few ordinary "mug shot" photos of myself which I hoped to convert to interesting avatars for use with my social media accounts

Some Questionable (!?) Results:  



Chat GPT (a chatbot that responds conversationally to answer questions, create essays, & more)

Query: "How would Michael Greer, Project Management Minimalist, explain project team requirements for donuts and coffee?"

ChatGPT Reply: "Michael Greer, the author of Project Management Minimalist, advocates for a simple and efficient approach to project management. In regards to team requirements for donuts and coffee, he would likely stress the importance of identifying the specific needs of the team and ensuring that they are met in the most cost-effective and streamlined way possible. He would likely advise against providing unnecessary luxuries, such as gourmet donuts and coffee, unless they are shown to directly improve team productivity and morale. Additionally, he would likely suggest looking for ways to automate or delegate the purchasing and provision of these items to minimize the amount of time and effort required from the team."

Note:  I have never written anything whatsoever about team requirements for donuts and coffee. Chat GPT apparently synthesized the answer above, inferring my likely response from info in one of my books and a couple of other articles I published. And it created this reply in about 3 seconds!


DALL-E  (AI art generator) 

Query: While I don't remember exactly what I asked DALL-E to generate, it went something like this: "smiley face, smart speaker, cartoon." 

Results: I got several results and finally settled on the one below for my article, Stuck waiting? Doing mindless chores? Don't be frustrated or bored: Fire up a podcast & learn or just be entertained..