The enormous performance and potential of artificial intelligence (AI) became clear with the success of "ChatGPT". The chatbot creates texts, expert opinions, images or pieces of music in a matter of seconds. At the touch of a button, the AI can check or compare millions of court rulings. In medical diagnosis, it can recognize precise disease patterns based on X-ray images.
The amazement at this technological leap in development, which will certainly revolutionize our working world in the coming years, is often combined with the assumption that artificial intelligence is superior to mental intelligence. However, this is comparing apples with light bulbs. AI is based on a sophisticated algorithm, i.e. a clear set of instructions for solving a problem. Algorithms consist of a finite number of well-defined individual steps that are executed at incredible speed. Automation, speed, efficiency and tireless productivity are the trump cards of AI.
The AI has no heartburn, no lovesickness and no nightmares.
Mental intelligence is not essentially related to AI. Rather, it is determined by holistic qualities of human existence - by our corporeality, by our transience and fatefulness, by the inner contradictions of the soul. In other words: AI has neither heartburn nor heartache, nor nightmares. It knows neither passion nor pain, neither temptation nor horror, neither hope nor despair. But these emotional qualities and the associated searches, trials and tribulations, upswings and disappointments are our deepest reason for being, the unconscious driving force behind our lives, aspirations and creations.
AI arrives at quite astonishing results, but they often do not touch us deeply because they do not stem from a common emotional world.
The essence and deeper meaning of art and creativity lies precisely in reconciling us with our contradictions, modeling our dreams, calming our fears or illuminating our abysses. However, this requires empathic understanding and empathy, which AI does not provide. It is a highly developed machine that can reproduce, remodel and reconfigure many things. It achieves quite astonishing results, but these often do not touch us deeply because they do not stem from a shared emotional world.
The algorithm knows no boredom, no fear, no disappointment, no happy moments or the magic of falling in love. Nor does the algorithm reckon with the fact that secret logic can constantly turn everything upside down. Suddenly, goodness turns into pest, meaning into nonsense, beauty into kitsch or love into hate. This logic of reversal cannot be calculated because it stems from a logic of the soul that condenses, shifts, exaggerates, dramatizes or ironizes. It thus follows mechanisms analogous to art, which for their part do not obey any rational logic, but which we can understand intuitively.
The claim that artificial intelligence is superior to mental intelligence¸ is based on the fact that efficiency is often equated with effectiveness.
The claim that artificial intelligence is superior to mental intelligence¸ is based on the fact that efficiency is often equated with effectiveness. A joke takes aim at the error of this equation: a club of joke tellers decides to make its monthly club evenings more efficient by numbering all the jokes consecutively. At their meetings, the club members then only call out the numbers of the jokes instead of the jokes themselves: "Number 7" - general hilarity. "Number 23" - quiet giggles. "Number 74" - snorting in the hall. Finally, the announcement of "number 185" is followed by thunderous, never-ending laughter. "Why is that?" asks a guest in astonishment. Answer: "We didn't know joke 185 yet."
Efficiency remains artificial, anemic and - literally - witless if it ignores central parameters of effectiveness. Unlike efficiency, effectiveness is not based on speed, but on a mental development time. That is why a joke comes across quite differently if it is told in a pointed manner and with the right timing. That's why a detailed consultation with a doctor is more effective than a quick internet diagnosis. And that's why psychotherapy takes at least six months to become effective.
Effectiveness requires direct proximity to the object, it requires the courage to feel one's own entanglements and thus to make authentic experiences.
AI increases efficiency through its cool rationality, through an inner detachment from the task that is being automated. The use of AI is associated with the promise of being able to keep things at arm's length. Effectiveness, on the other hand, requires direct proximity to the object, it needs the courage to feel one's own entanglements and thus gain authentic experience. This is why we learn more from painful experiences than from things that have left us cold. We are only moved by a love story or a soccer match when we get excited, identify with one side and follow the often ludicrous twists of fate.
Artificial intelligence will therefore flank emotional intelligence efficiently and usefully, but will never be able to replace it. We only experience and understand our effectiveness and vitality through developments and entanglements - in other words, if we are prepared to move with them mentally.
Psychologist Stephan Grünewald from Cologne is the founder of the market and media research institute rheingold. Grünewald became a bestselling author with the books "Deutschland auf der Couch" (2006) and "Die erschöpfte Gesellschaft" (2013) as well as "Wie tickt Deutschland" (2019), among others.