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Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.
Creativity Squared Episode Cover Art featuring Eric Solomon
Eric Solomon has worked at the intersection of psychology, brand-building, technology, and creativity for 20+ years. He has held marketing leadership positions at YouTube, Spotify, Google, and Instagram. He currently serves as the Founder and CEO of The Human OS™, a strategic advisory platform.

Ep8. Eric Solomon: A.I. Will Never Be Human

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Creativity Squared Episode Cover Art featuring for Eric Solomon

Ep8. A.I. Will Never Be Human: Discover How Language Shapes Our Reality & Why Empathy is Core to Human Connection with Eric Solomon

Eric Solomon never expected that the work he started in psycholinguistics over 20 years ago would have consumer-facing implications in today’s A.I.-driven world. 

Eric has worked at the intersection of psychology, brand-building, technology, and creativity. He has held marketing leadership positions for some of the top brands in the world including YouTube, Spotify, Google, and Instagram. He also served as the Chief Marketing Officer for Bonobos, a DTC e-retailer owned by Walmart. Eric entered the business world through the doors of academia, earning his Master’s and Ph.D. in cognitive psychology prior to leading research and strategy for award-winning creative agencies. He currently serves as the Founder and CEO of The Human OS™, a strategic advisory platform that Eric built from the ground up. He’s a lover of electronic music, daily exercise, and extremely delicious food. 

Eric started his PhD program in 1999 exploring cognitive psychology with a focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence. This is not only fascinating but was also really the early days of the application of language to this field.

In our discussion with Eric, he provides insights on navigating the complexities of A.I. to ensure we stay on the right path, avoiding profit-driven pitfalls and including diverse voices in the decision-making process. He talks about establishing a strong ethical foundation, akin to an operating system, becomes crucial for the responsible development of A.I. This system encompasses understanding A.I. systems and establishing clear beliefs and behaviors. Without it, our journey forward lacks direction, clarity, and purpose. 

He reminds us that machines are not human and we can not let them convince us otherwise. Eric points out our collaboration with A.I. should aim to augment rather than replace human capabilities. While A.I. excels at speed, repetition, and low-level tasks, the preservation of human critical thinking remains paramount.

Eric’s Origin Story: From Academia to Advertising

Eric’s personal journey and professional journey converge quite a lot. He grew up impoverished with little parental support and was driven by a desire to live a different life than they had. He poured himself into academics which led to a Master’s and Ph.D. with a focus on linguistics and the computational structure of language. These were the early days of machine learning. While doing his postdoc on Big Tobacco and getting people hooked on nicotine, he had the opportunity to move from academic to advertising which led to a major career milestone working at YouTube and then Spotify.

March 2016 forever changed the course of Eric’s life. Returning from a leadership meeting with Spotify, he received the devastating news of their father’s murder. Amidst the complexities of the investigation and a profound sense of grief, work became an outlet for channeling emotions. However, after the investigation into his father’s murder was closed and unsolved, Eric realized he didn’t understand his core purpose and end goal. He resigned from the corporate world and started his own company, The Human OS™. Today, he helps leaders, individual leaders, teams, and organizations build, install or update their human operating system. 

The Rise of A.I. and the Challenge of Trust

During Eric’s time in academia, he explored the computational structure of language, and his research aimed to understand how humans process and generate linguistic expressions. Little did Eric know that this would lay the groundwork for advancements in artificial intelligence and deep learning networks. 

“My biggest concern is that they almost are going to convince us that they’re too human. And they’re not human. They’re machines.”

Eric Solomon

The ultimate goal of A.I. research has always been to create machines indistinguishable from humans. However, as AI systems, such as ChatGPT gain popularity, a significant concern arises. Can we trust these systems that simulate human-like conversations? 

Eric is apprehensive about the potential consequences of placing too much trust in machines fed with information from an imperfect internet. He emphasizes the need for skepticism and critical thinking when interacting with A.I. systems that might convince us of their humanity while remaining fundamentally different—mere machines.

The Power and Pitfalls of A.I. Adoption

The widespread adoption of A.I. has been driven by its utility and convenience. Users have flocked to these systems, seeking shortcuts for tasks like writing papers or crafting emails. However, Eric has concerns over the misuse of A.I., especially without disclosing that ChatGPT was used for something. Eric believes in transparency, urging for the inclusion of disclaimers so users know when A.I. has been used (disclaimer: we do use ChatGPT to help with writing here at Creativity Squared!)

“I approach it with a lot of healthy skepticism that what really matters in this time more than ever, is doubling down on a true human connection. And knowing the difference between that and human and machine interaction.”

Eric Solomon

Eric believes it is crucial to strike a balance between leveraging A.I.’s capabilities and maintaining ethical practices. Especially as A.I. systems become more sophisticated, they possess the ability to mimic empathy convincingly. However, the danger lies in our tendency to be easily deceived. Eric brings up the Turing Test, designed to determine if a machine can pass as a human. It raises the question: If an A.I. appears empathetic, does it matter if it truly is? This deceptive appeal of empathy is a cause for concern, as it can lead to a false sense of connection and understanding. We must remember that A.I. lacks the subjective human experience and cannot replace genuine human connections.

“We need to start somewhere in terms of crafting what it is we’re hurtling towards, instead of just going towards profit at all costs.”

Eric Solomon

Another pitfall is that without proper regulation, A.I. systems can become breeding grounds for deceptive advertising practices. The existing dominance of corporate America in shaping A.I. discourse raises concerns about the motives behind these conversations. We should not be chasing profits at all costs.

The Purpose and End Goal of A.I.

Eric is concerned about the lack of a singular purpose and clear end goals for A.I. While some perceive the purpose of A.I. as creating systems that closely resemble humans, this is not the way to go. And large tech companies shaping the conversation is troublesome. 

“Every system that we create should have a purpose.”

Eric Solomon

It is imperative to establish a purpose that transcends profit and involves a broader range of perspectives to navigate the future of A.I. more thoughtfully. We foundationally don’t have an operating system for A.I. and Eric argues we need one. This operating system should address concerns such as understanding how A.I. systems work, involving diverse voices in the decision-making process, and establishing clear beliefs and behaviors. By incorporating a diverse range of perspectives, we can foster a more comprehensive understanding of A.I.’s impact on society.

“I think having a statement around how we would like to see machine and human interaction form that would be useful.”

Eric Solomon

Without a comprehensive operating system, the path forward for A.I. risks lacking direction, clarity, and purpose. Especially due to the fact that deep learning and neural networks possess a level of complexity that surpasses human comprehension. Without fully understanding A.I.’s learning process, it makes it difficult to predict their outcomes.

Harnessing the Promise of A.I.

There’s a lot of promise in A.I. but it’s up to us as humans to harness that promise – not the machines. Erin mentions there are a lot of unintended things it’s going to accomplish and won’t predict what they will be. But he does think there could be a museum of A.I.-created art one day.

“I think we need to preserve our critical thinking ability, that’s something an AI system will never do.”

Eric Solomon

The potential of A.I. lie  its ability to augment human capabilities rather than replace them. By leveraging A.I.’s strengths in speed, repetition, and offloading tasks, humans can focus on more strategic and creative endeavors. However, Eric cautions against the abuse of A.I. by using it for tasks that can be accomplished by human creative thinking. Preserving critical human thinking and maintaining a human-centric approach to A.I. usage is essential for harnessing its true potential.

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Creativity Squared NFT Featuring Episode Cover Art with Eric Solomon

Thank you, Eric, for being our guest on Creativity Squared.

This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.  

Creativity Squared is brought to you by Sociality Squared, a social media agency who understands the magic of bringing people together around what they value and love: http://socialitysquared.com.

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