Review of Evolutionary Intelligence: How Technology Will Make Us Smarter

AI has been here for a much longer than “ChatGPT” which has been garnering so much attention since late 2022. There have been a number of books and articles and special journal issues dedicated to the understanding it, considering its potential effects, and advising individuals and group on how to successfully navigate this new world. It seems folks are still following into one of two general approaches: either adopt it and accept the advice it gives (even if giving some control to it) or continue to try to avoid it and reject all uses of it. There is a small group that is adopting a third stance towards artificial intelligence, and W. Russel Neuman, the author of the 2023 book Evolutionary Intelligence: How Technology Will Make Us Smarter, is a member fo this group and his book gives a cogent rationale for joining it.

Evolutionary Intelligence cover

Neuman, W. R. (2023). Evolutionary intelligence: How technology will make us smarter. The MIT Press.

Visit the page for this book on the MIT Press website.

Neuman’s stance is that AI will be integrated into human cognition. We will use it for those purposes for which it is fit. The theme throughout is that those who do adopt it and adapt their own thinking and work to use it will gain an advantage over those who do not. Of course, that should not seem a surprise given the subtitle of the book. The rationale is clear.

First, artificial intelligence does some things better, much better, that humans do. By accepting those into our lives, we gain the advantage. Those of us who have no interest in buying a self-driving car, but who are happy to pay attention to the blind spot warnings are leveraging this reality of artificial intelligence. Neuman suggests we can enhance our cognition in the same way blind spot warnings enhance our perceptions by using AI to overcome human’s cognitive biases.

Second, Nueman places the integration of AI into out human decision making in the context of human history. This is one of the many books that describes the connection between humans and our technology. Integrating AI in to our thinking and acting is a continuation of what is a long tradition for our species. Neuman does recognize potential problems, so the rationale does suggest the areas to which we must pay attention as AI tools emerge and are integrated into evolutionary intelligence.

Neuman describes how evolutionary intelligence is already here, and the point is made that we are already seeing the benefits. Read the book for the details, but Neuman notes AI is used to diagnose cancers and pathologists do as well and they perform similarly when diagnosing alone, as I recall, both catch around 95% of tumors. When pathologists use AI to help them, their performance nears 100%.

To me the message is clear. Insist AI tools continue to improve, and adopt those that help you.