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  • Writer's pictureKieran Cornwall

The Risk of Losing 'Hard-Earned Knowledge' to AI

At this point I think it's fair to say we've all had a "holy sh*t" moment with AI now. It's tempting to embrace this change without question, especially when you see how AI can significantly boost efficiency across a multitude of industries. But let's pause for a moment. The convenience that AI brings masks a deeper issue — the subtle erosion of critical thinking and deep understanding.


The Universal Allure of Speed and Convenience


It's hard to argue against the allure of speed. In a world that constantly pushes for more — more efficiency, more results, more data — AI seems like the logical next step. We use it for debugging code, diagnosing medical conditions, predicting consumer behaviour, and so much more. I've seen colleagues and friends visibly relieved when an AI tool solves in seconds what would have taken hours. But here's the catch — what foundational skills are we losing in the whirlwind of efficiency?


The Lessons We Risk Losing


Take software development as a case in point. Debugging could often be a painstaking dance of logic, intuition, document reading, error codes and more. It was hard-earned knowledge, and yes, it was a grind. But it was also a journey of self-improvement and mastery. The rise of AI shortcuts could very well short-circuit this learning curve for not just coders, but professionals in various fields.


What does AI temptation it cost you as an individual?


As someone who's been in the tech field for a while, I've caught myself leaning on AI-based search engines like ChatGPT and Google's bard more often than I'd like to admit. Instant answers are a click away, feeding the illusion that I'm smart and up-to-date. But let's be honest — these quick fixes often deprive us of the chance to engage our analytical skills and creative thinking.


Anyone moving into a career now leaving university or jumping into tech for the first time have this unbridled temptation of an AI power that can get the job done in one form or another, quickly. But this question isn't just for those new to the field; it's for everyone: Did you actually learn anything along the way? If that magical AI power were suddenly taken away, could you still conjure the same result? Chances are, you learned very little on this journey of watching the magical answer appear.


A Cross-Industry Dilemma


I find it disconcerting that many young professionals entering the workforce may treat AI-based tools as the norm rather than a supplemental aid. Whether in healthcare, finance, or engineering, the easy access to AI tools can result in a shallow understanding of one's chosen field. It begs the question: Is the answer offered by AI always the most effective or even the most ethical? This isn't a problem confined to tech — it's a challenge that transcends industries.


Quality vs. Quickness


Efficiency is often hailed as the pinnacle of professional excellence. But let's not forget that efficiency and excellence aren't always synonymous. AI may offer us rapid solutions, but at what cost to industry best practices or ethical standards? The essential human element of judgement should never be out of the equation.


Do We Even Care?


Finally, let's tackle a question we're often too uncomfortable to ask: Are we, as a society, willing to trade depth for surface-level convenience? It's a critical consideration because if we are, then perhaps we're heading towards a future where expertise and skill are antiquated notions, replaced by artificial intelligence.


Yes, Artificial Intelligence offers an array of benefits that can't be ignored. But we must strive to balance this by using AI as an augmentative tool, not a substitute for human skills and judgement. We should celebrate technological innovation without sidelining the essential qualities that make us skilled professionals, capable of deep understanding and ethical decision-making.


True knowledge is earned not given.


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