Mark Rolston in Fast Company: How AI is Changing Our Brains

Mark Rolston, the Austin-based UX pioneer and founder of the product design and innovation consultancy argodesign, wrote for Fast Company on how AI is shaping not only how we think, but how we see ourselves. Rolston describes how our digital selves are merging with our physical selves, a phenomenon he calls the “Meta Me.”

“The more the Meta Me uses digital tools, the more conscious it will become — a development that will have tremendous social, ethical, and legal implications. Some are already coming to light,” he writes.  

Rolston notes that common apps like LinkedIn and Waze already make many decisions for us, prompting us to communicate with others or head in a certain direction. And because these apps and their algorithms are developed by people, there’s always the chance that someone is trying to influence how we think.

That danger is real — from 2016’s election-tipping propaganda bots to DARPA’s futuristic “Silent Talk” project, an ever-broadening range of human behavior seems to be mediated by software and the people who wrote it. Meanwhile our smartphones and the digital trails they contain have become sought-after evidence in legal cases all the way to the Supreme Court, indicating that legal frameworks have already evolved to view our digital selves as synonymous with our physical selves.

Rolston concludes, “the Meta Me is not just a passing curiosity. It’s the future of who we are. This is a troubling thought when you consider how terrible we are at regulating our existing digital behavior. To ensure the Meta Me lives harmoniously in the world, we must adopt new social constructs. Importantly, we must also pursue the same legal protections that were hard-won over our corporeal selves.”

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