Technology has greatly contributed to improving and streamlining everyday life. However, as technology advances, there is an increased reliance on digital tools powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Unfortunately, these technologies are also challenging the fundamental notion of human agency. As a result, there are rising concerns about humans losing the ability to make independent decisions.
What is Human Agency?
Human agency refers to the capacity of individuals to act intentionally and make choices that shape their lives. Although the human agency is influenced by various factors, including social, cultural, and environmental contexts, individuals should maintain the ability to exert some degree of control and influence over their lives. As far as technology is concerned, individuals must retain control and decision-making power. This calls for technologies that support humans in making informed decisions rather than controlling the decisions made.
Concerns Over the Effects of Digital Systems on Human Agency
The Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a nonscientific canvassing to gather expert views about the future of the human agency.
The experts were specifically asked, “By 2035, will smart machines, bots, and systems powered by artificial intelligence be designed to allow humans to easily be in control of most tech-aided decision-making that is relevant to their lives?”
Of the 540 experts from different fields, 56 percent disagreed with the statement, while 44 percent agreed. Some of the main themes raised by the experts who disagreed with the statement include:
Common themes raised by participants that agreed with the statement include:
Key Considerations for Upholding Human Agency
Seeing that technology will keep advancing and more automated systems will be witnessed, it’s crucial to implement ways to help uphold human agency. Some considerations include the following:
The essence of being human lies in exercising control over the nature and quality of an individual’s life. However, technological advances such as artificial intelligence are raising concerns about this human ability. Humans are responsible for actively embracing and comprehending the possibilities and implications of living in a world where digital systems take over various tasks and processes. Instead of surrendering their agency, humans should view partnering with these digital systems as a means to supplement and strengthen their intelligence rather than surrendering it.