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Why Emotional Skills Matter in Age of AI

Why Emotional Skills Matter in Age of AI
Photo by Barbara Zandoval / Unsplash

This week, I've been reading Chris Summerfield's book, "Natural General Intelligence." Chris, who wears the hats of an Oxford professor and a DeepMind scientist, also happens to be my college advisor.

The book probes into the concept of general intelligence. While computers excel at tasks like playing chess, they falter outside their design remit. For instance, Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, didn't just engage in a chess match against the computer Deep Blue. He navigated a series of daily human problems - the reluctance to leave the comfort of his bed, getting dressed, figuring out the route to the venue, and managing to sit in his chair without toppling over. These are problems we take for granted, but a computer like Deep Blue would struggle to solve.

Summerfield writes that our intelligence isn't merely about celebrated feats like chess mastery or mathematical prowess. Rather, our greatness often lies in handling mundane tasks. If an AI were to demonstrate true general intelligence, it would need to not just excel at complex tasks, but also manage the seemingly ordinary problems humans navigate every day.

This perspective begs the question - how do we define "big feats" of intelligence? Solving a complex math problem might earn someone the label of a genius. Yet when a mother successfully soothes her child and puts them to bed, we consider that ordinary. Can we categorically state that the former is "genius" while the latter is not, especially if the so-called genius struggles with basic social skills?

Our definitions of intelligence have long been monopolized by academics, with a heavy emphasis on abstract cognitive abilities like mathematical problem-solving. However, for AI to exhibit true intelligence, it needs to be capable of performing not only these traditionally "intelligent" tasks but also mundane, everyday ones. Not just beating Kasparov at chess, but also finding the chess board to play on.

The advent of AI prompts us to reconsider, if not redefine, our understanding of intelligence. Recognizing the importance of practical skills such as emotional and social intelligence is crucial. That's why I believe that enhancing our emotional intelligence is the most important skill we can acquire in the age of AI.

What do you think? Do you think AI is emotionally intelligent? Do you think it can replace humans in the emotional intelligence/social skills area? Hit reply and let me know.