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人工智能,「哲」看未來 / Viewing Artificial Intelligence (AI) from the Perspective of Philosophy

31 Oct 2022
Staff Achievement

Prof. Jiji Zhang received his MSc and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 2003 and 2006 respectively. He is currently a professor in HKBU’s Department of Religion and Philosophy. His research areas include causal inference, formal epistemology, the philosophy of science, and artificial intelligence.


Most are likely familiar with the term “philosophy.” However, some may wonder whether the study of philosophy can contribute to society. To be sure, philosophy can be applied in our everyday lives, including to our personal and worldly affairs. Today, it is our honor to invite Prof. Zhang to share some of his professional views about the topic: Will Artificial Intelligence (AI) take over humanity? Through this interview, we hope to explore the future development of AI from the perspective of philosophy.


Before discussing today’s topic, I will briefly address Prof. Zhang’s perception of philosophy. Prof. Zhang believes that people, regardless of their age, need philosophy. Although most philosophical theories are abstract and even abstruse, philosophical thinking enables people to develop their worldview reflectively. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In the modern age, most people are stressed out by the fast pace of city life, resulting in a state of depression and confusion. However, learning philosophy enables people to think carefully and more critically about the issues of life and thereby helps them to set clearer goals for the future. Philosophy may not be in high demand in the job market, but people may rely upon it to develop a healthier mind.


Nowadays, AI is developing at an exponential rate. The rise of AI risks displacing traditional understandings of human cognition, as if somehow AI were to replace human intelligence sooner or later. Prof. Zhang believes that while we do not need to worry overly about this particular outcome, we must reflect upon the nature of impacts brought about by technology. The purpose of holding a philosophical discussion over this issue is to remind humans of the potential threat of technology to our intellectual traditions. We should not solely focus upon the positive influence of technology and thereby neglect its potentially negative impacts. Instead, we should critically and consistently reflect upon the purposes and outcomes of technological development, thereby preparing ourselves for technological risks in the future.


Will AI overtake humans in the future? Prof. Zhang said the possibility of AI taking over humans remains low, even as there are other issues arising in its implementation worthy of our attention. For example, the broader implementation of AI systems are likely to accelerate wealth inequality, since a large proportion of existing human jobs will be replaced. If AI were to become self-aware, as depicted in science fiction movies, Prof. Zhang believes it would be possible for humans and AI not only to coexist but also to collaborate. Nevertheless, it is also possible that humans will choose to cease development of artificial consciousness for the future.


To conclude, technological advancement remains to some extent inevitable in our digital age, with humans playing the prominent role throughout the process. Nevertheless, people should not focus solely upon the positive impacts of technological change at the expense of considering its adverse effects. Through philosophical inquiry, people can critically reflect upon the current state of technological development and prepare themselves for any problems arising from AI thereby.


Text by

LUI Wing Kwan, Wing (Department of Religion and Philosophy)


English Translation by 

WONG Hau Tung (Department of Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies)


Extracted from <Arts Fanfare> Issue No. 10