AI as a cognitive crutch

How AI could help our reasoning when it's most flawed.

An abstract image of a person walking with a crutch

To understand how AI might change our reasoning, we have to understand our reasoning. Intuition is our “go-to” for making decisions. Our intuitions evolved in the real world of our senses. It’s pretty good at what it does and exists because our thinking evolved under resource constraints. We have limited energy from food, limited space in our skulls and limited life spans so we have certain biases built in. Intuition is fast and efficient but unreliable when we are up against something new, we lack expertise or have no feedback on our judgments.

Many people are familiar with Kahneman and Tversky’s System one (intuition) and System two (analysis) and also with various types of cognitive biases. But being familiar with them doesn’t mean we can avoid them. Kahneman himself says he’s subject to all of them.

Try this. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 lattes, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 lattes?

The intuitive answer is 100 minutes while the correct answer is 5 minutes. Even if you resisted the urge to blurt out 100, you almost certainly found that it came to mind. It’s very hard to suppress intuition.

Just noticing your error is sometimes enough to correct it. An AI could just point out our errors and leave the response to us. Maybe just a nudge to point us in the right direction.

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