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Mind Over Matter: The Rise of AI and the Decline of Human Cognition

By Raluca-Mara Mare 

Staff Writer


Via Meta


Imagine a world where our thoughts are no longer our own, one where our cognitive processes have been corrupted by artificial intelligence. Imagine a world beyond the mind’s capacity for understanding, a world where there is no necessity for introspection or reflection.


The technological revolution reached mind-blowing peaks since ChatGPT’s release in November 2022. This seemingly innocent and simple-minded chatbot can quickly and succinctly write hundreds of words on any topic. In addition, it can answer and explain any question, respond to endless prompts, and propose useful information at any given time. 


In times like these, the term existential threat is often employed in society to describe the fear of the future, particularly the one in which  artificial intelligence is slowly setting in. The terrifying risks of science gone mad might include cyberattacks, deepfake disinformation campaigns, and autonomous weapons that can shoot without human supervision — terrifying threats that would make modern weapons seem archaic. Furthermore, as Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, warns, AI systems make it "relatively simple to construct" deadly biological diseases.


My take on it is far from surprising. As much as I love the practicality of chatbots and the efficacy of the fast answers generated, I cannot help but be disappointed in myself whenever I turn to these tools for guidance. Developing an overreliance on these sophisticated chatbots could result in a loss of creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities as people grow accustomed to machines offering instant answers. Also, it can lead to skill loss, such as relying on spatial memory when navigating using traditional maps instead of navigation apps or knowing how to target important information when reading a book.


AI reliance might also cause problems in human cognition through constant stimulation and instant gratification, causing shorter attention spans and a significant decrease in the ability to keep focus for an extended period. This cognitive decline can particularly affect memory retention as the nervous pathways won’t work towards committing facts and knowledge to memory and the world but rely instead on fast-powered engines at their fingertips instead of internal cognitive processes for recall. 


As for Chat GPT’s place within education, it can represent a big subject of conversation, particularly in cheating. Artificial intelligence has two sides when it comes to it. On the one hand, AI-powered technologies can facilitate cheating by giving students instant access to answers or even by handling assignments for them. This can promote shortcuts over real comprehension, undermining academic integrity and devaluing learning processes. However, AI can also be used to successfully identify and stop cheating. 


Artificial intelligence systems can identify possible cases of academic dishonesty by examining trends in student behaviour, such as abrupt increases in performance or resemblances between turns in work. AI-powered proctoring systems can spot suspect behaviour by analysing a student's eye movements, browser activity, and motions throughout a test; AI seems like a double-edged sword. Rather than depending solely on technology to stop cheating, educators should address the underlying factors that lead to cheating, such as lack of interest or academic pressure.


The next generations will be shocked when you say that you were born before AI the same way some of us were shocked when we first learned that the Internet was not a thing back when our parents were young. The times are changing, perhaps for the better or the worse. It is primordial to keep an eye out for the traps of depending on these tools and losing full access to your cognition capacities. To think for the self and others makes us human and provides us with what the well known philosopher Kant defines as good will, through our rationality and free thinking. In accordance with his philosophical ideas, the dependence on AI at the expense of human cognition results in a loss of rationality as we turn to machines to do the thinking in our place. As much as we should embrace technological advancement, we should never let it dim the light of human intellect. After all, in the battle of silicon versus synapse, the mind is what truly matters. 

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